Holocaust survivors to share personal stories at free EvCC presentation

EVERETT — Henry Friedman has shared not only excruciating memories of the Holocaust, but his message that life is precious. Robert Herschkowitz has told of his family’s long journey to evade the Nazis, and why people must hear those harrowing stories today.

Both men will return to Everett Community College this spring, along with two other speakers, as part of the college’s 16th annual Holocaust Survivor Forums.

The series is part of EvCC instructor Joyce Walker’s Humanities 150D class, “Surviving the Holocaust,” but all the talks are free and open to the public.

Talks begin April 15 with Friedman’s account of being a teenager in Poland when his family was helped by Ukrainian friends to hide from the Nazis. Friedman, who is in his mid-80s and lives on Mercer Island, told the college audience in 2012 that “I tell my personal story to hundreds of students. I don’t reach everyone, but if I reach just one I am doing something,”

His most searing memory is the death of his newborn sister, whose crying would have meant sure capture. She was killed during their time in hiding to spare the rest of the family. “That pain, 70 years later — I still feel guilty,” he said in a 2012 Herald interview.

Herschkowitz, who is in his late 70s, spoke at EvCC a year ago. The Bellevue man focused on the plight of children during the Holocaust. Among the millions of European Jews murdered by the Nazis were 1.5 million children younger than 16, he said. Herschkowitz was saved by an odyssey that eventually took him over the Alps by foot to Switzerland.

Speakers are arranged through the Holocaust Center for Humanity in Seattle, and the series is supported by a Global Education Initiative grant.

Amanda Davis, office manager and speakers bureau coordinator with the Holocaust Center for Humanity, said Friday that the nonprofit has a new name, location and a museum that will soon be open to the public. Formerly the Washington State Holocaust Education Resource Center, the organization recently moved to its new building at Second Avenue and Lenora Street in Seattle’s Belltown area.

In June, the center’s 6,000-square foot museum will open with its own exhibit. Davis said the facility will also host traveling exhibits and speakers.

There are now about 15 to 20 people active with the speakers bureau, both Holocaust survivors and their children. Survivor stories have been videotaped, so when relatives give talks audiences may still hear the voices of those who experienced the Holocaust.

“We have some into their 90s still wanting to talk. They feel so passionate about their messages,” Davis said.

Walker said Friday that even when she started the forums in 2000, she knew those who remembered the Holocaust were becoming elderly. Those now sharing firsthand stories were young children or teens during World War II. “My students sometimes bring their children,” Walker said. “Sometimes people who do home-schooling attend. We have a faithful following from the community.”

The Holocaust Center for Humanity addresses other examples of genocide and persecuted groups. “Our main focus is to teach tolerance through the Holocaust,” Davis said.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Holocaust speakers

Everett Community College’s annual Holocaust Survivor Forums begin April 15. The four talks are free and open to the public. Sessions are 12:20-1:20 p.m. in Whitehorse Hall, room 105, on campus, 2000 Tower St., Everett.

April 15: Henry Friedman was a teen in Poland when his family, helped by Ukrainian friends, hid from the Nazis for 18 months.

April 29: Peter Metzelaar and his mother were hidden, through the Dutch underground, on a farm, in a cave, and in a home in The Hague.

May 13: Robert Herschkowitz retraces a childhood journey from his Belgian homeland to a French concentration camp, and over the Alps by foot to Switzerland.

May 27: Eva Tannenbaum Cummins will perform her play about the effects of Adolf Hitler’s destruction before she and her mother were able to flee Germany. They came to Seattle weeks before World War II began.

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