'Generation to generation,' Holocaust survivors' stories live on

Norwich — Four daughters of Holocaust survivors shared their parents' stories on Tuesday to keep alive the memories of survivors and ensure that such a genocide will never happen again.

They spoke during the Eastern Connecticut Chapter of Hadassah’s second annual Henny Simon Remembrance event at Three Rivers Community College, which honors Simon, a Holocaust survivor and the author of "Am I my Brother's Keeper: The Story of a Holocaust Survivor." Simon, who spoke to groups around the state about her story and was very active in Hadassah, died in a car accident in 2017 at age 91.

This year's event, "L'Dor V'Daughters: Witnesses Once Removed," focused on the daughters of Holocaust survivors who are carrying on their parents' legacy. Sheila Horvitz, education and Zionist chair of the Eastern Connecticut chapter of Hadassah, said that it's important that children of survivors — the next generation — continue to tell their stories.

“Generation to generation, we have to continue telling their stories and keeping their memories alive so that we will not forget and we will not let the Holocaust deniers win,” Horvitz said. “The most important thing is to remember the lessons of history so we can apply them to what is going on today and we can work together to make a better world.”

The four panelists, Judi Deglin, Rosa Goldblatt, Mona Levin, and Vivian F. Zoë, were interviewed before the Tuesday evening event.

Levin, the daughter of Holocaust survivors, said it's important to impart the Holocaust's gravity and immensity, especially since there are many people who deny or minimize the Holocaust.

"We have to learn from what happened so that it will never happen again," she said.

Levin's mother, who was the only one of eight siblings and her mother to survive the Holocaust, used to talk to high school students about her experience, and now Levin is carrying on that legacy through speaking at Tuesday's event and through the Jewish Federation's Encountering Survivors program.

Goldblatt, a Norwich resident and accountant, said her father, Henry Drobiarz, spoke to school groups about his experience during the Holocaust, when he was in several work camps and showed the students the tattooed "KL" on his arm from one of the camps. 

Goldblatt said she wanted to share the message she learned from him, that "you're stronger than you think you are." Near the end of the war, when her father got out of Allach, a sub camp of Dachau, he weighed 90 pounds, had been sick and had been beaten a couple of times — but he was also strong and resilient and survived. He met his wife in Munich and they worked in the kitchen for the U.S. Army and later immigrated to the United States.

Goldblatt said history repeats itself and it's important to be vigilant, as there are people who are being tortured and marginalized every day, whether they're Jewish, Muslim, Hindu or Christian.

"You have to speak up," she said, noting that her father spoke up and went to people for help during the war. "You have to speak up on your behalf and you have to speak up on other people's behalf."

Deglin, a Norwich resident and retired pharmacist whose parents were sent to the United States as teenagers to get out of Germany, said she wants people to understand that "to be silent is to be complicit."

"I think in these times it's important to make sure that this next generation understands how quickly things can go from intolerance to hatred," she said.

Zoë, the director of the Slater Museum in Norwich, said her mother was in three different concentration camps and was liberated in 1945 with her younger sister, and her father and older brother were sent to Israel to be protected.

Zoë said she wanted to speak Tuesday to honor the memory of her mother and make sure something like the Holocaust never happens again. 

"I think it's really important and it's my honor to do it, but it's not easy," she said.

Horvitz said that many survivors waited decades to speak about the painful experience of the Holocaust. Simon realized in her 80s that it was time to open the wounds and start telling the world what happened so it wouldn't happen again, Horvitz said.

The children of survivors of the Holocaust, or of any major devastation, also have to deal with the pain of what happened to their parents and figure out what is their responsibility to history. Many survivors kept much of their pain inside and wanted to shield their children from it but, regardless, studies show that the trauma is passed on to the next generation, she said.

Jewish Federation of Eastern Connecticut President Romana Strochlitz Primus, a Holocaust educator and the daughter of Holocaust survivors Rose and Sigmund Strochlitz, shared the message with Horvitz that: "If we children of survivors do not counter the haters and the demagogues, we betray the legacy our parents gave us."

The event was hosted by Three Rivers Community College President Mary Ellen Jukoski, sponsored by Three Rivers Community College and supported by The Rose and Sigmund Strochlitz Holocaust Resource Center of the Jewish Federation of Eastern Connecticut.

A video, "L'Dor V'Daughters: Witnesses Once Removed," produced in advance of the event, is available at bit.ly/WitnessesOnceRemoved.



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