Aug 26, 2010
3rd-gen Holocaust Survivors
Being a third generation Holocaust survivor is now getting its own sign of importance.
I always thought we ascribed importance to the survivors, and to their kids. After that the effects kind of wore off, the next generation was already very "American" (or Israeli or British, or whatever country they were in), and not really so linked to the grandparents survival.
Jennifer Seidner's hero is her grandmother.
"She's 90 years old and she still works at home as a seamstress," Seidner said about Lonia Mosak.
In 1941, Mosak and her family were taken from their homes outside Warsaw, Poland, and relocated to a Jewish ghetto. Two years later, the family was transferred to Auschwitz, the Nazi concentration camp in Poland. Young Lonia was the family's only survivor.
Seidner learned her grandmother's story from her parents, who taught her about the Holocaust when she was a child. She and her husband, Matthew, also a grandchild of survivors, will do the same with their two children, who are 6 months and 2 years old.
"I feel bad that that my children won't have the same connection with my grandmother as they grow up," said Seidner.
As the number of Holocaust survivors -- and their memories -- dwindles, some fear that outrage over such an atrocity could also lessen. By turning a camera on survivors' younger relatives, makers of a coming documentary film hope to avoid just that.
Earlier this month, local families hosted filmmaker Joshua Greene and executive producer Henri Lustiger Thaler, who were here laying the groundwork for "Memory After Belsen." The name refers to the Nazi concentration camp Bergen-Belsen in Germany.
He believes younger people, used to sharing thoughts and feelings on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, will have a lot to say for the 90-minute documentary. He also says "grandparents have a more relaxed relationship with their grandchildren than with children," making it easier for them to talk.
"This third generation of Holocaust survivors has a unique experience,'' adds Richard Hirschaut, executive director of the 2-year-old Skokie-based Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center.
"For the survivors, and even for their children, the experience was still raw. They focus on reflections, on their past. As the grandchildren come of age, they are removed from history and are more likely to engage in dialogue on how to transfer that legacy into the world today.''
As teenagers, twins Dena and Jared Rubenstein were moved to action by the life story of their grandmother, Lola Nortman, a survivor of Bergen-Belsen. Along with other local teens, they formed a group that raised about $50,000 for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.
"My grandma helped form my cultural and my personal values," said Jared Rubenstein, who is now his 20s and feels a sense of responsibility to ensure that the history does not get lost. "My generation is the last one that will have direct contact with survivors.''
At the same time, "the Holocaust is relevant to all people, when we look at places like Darfur," said Rubenstein, whose parents, Lee and Marlene, hosted an event to garner support for the project.