San Diego Holocaust Survivors to Share Their Personal Stories in Holocaust Living Workshop

“Discovering History” series to be held from Oct. 12 - Nov. 18 at UC San Diego’s Geisel Library

October 8, 2009 - The Holocaust Living History Workshop, sponsored by the UC San Diego Libraries and the Judaic Studies Program, will host four presentations during fall quarter by local Holocaust survivors. The Holocaust Living History Workshop is an educational outreach program designed to preserve the memory of victims and survivors of the Holocaust.

Four San Diego-based survivors will present their stories, including Lou Dunst on Oct. 14, Benjamin Midler on Oct. 28, Max Schindler on November 4, and Gussie Zaks on Nov. 18. At these events, members of the campus community and the public will have the opportunity to meet the survivors and hear their stories, as well as learn about other survivors’ testimony from the USC Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive, which includes the personal stories of more than 50,000 survivors of the Holocaust. All presentations are free and open to the public, and will take place at 5 p.m. in the UCSD Geisel Library Instruction Room (Room 276) on the main floor of the Geisel Library building.

At the Oct. 14 presentation, Lou Dunst will discuss his experiences as a survivor of the ghetto at Mátészalka and the Auschwitz, Mauthausen, and Ebensee concentration camps. Dunst arrived in San Diego in 1951, where he has thrived as a successful merchant and real estate investor. Active in the San Diego community, Dunst has spent many hours sharing his story with various schools and community groups. He has also taken San Diego-area teens to Poland and Israel on “March of the Living” trips.

Benjamin Midler, who will recount his experiences on Oct. 28, survived the Bialystok ghetto and the Bliżyn, Majdanek, Ohrdruf, Auschwitz, Sachsenhausen, Potsdam-Babelsburg, and Oraniensberg concentration camps. He also fought during the formation of Israel after WWII, and has a published memoir, “The Life of a Child Survivor from Bialystok, Poland."

On Nov. 4, Max Schindler, who was liberated from the Theresienstadt ghetto, will discuss his experiences as a survivor of the Mielec, Bendsburg, Wieliczka, Kraków-Plaszów, and Tätzschwitz concentration camps. After the war, he went to the United Kingdom through a program for refugee children. He now resides in San Diego.

Gussie Zaks, who survived the Bergen-Belsen, Flossenbürg, Blechhammer (Auschwitz IV), Saybusch, and Neusalz concentration camps, will present her personal recollections on Nov. 18. Zaks travels throughout the San Diego region, speaking to students, synagogues and other community groups. She is also the president of the New Life Club for Holocaust survivors in San Diego.

The UC San Diego Libraries are one of only three university libraries on the West Coast to have access to the USC Shoah Foundation Institute Visual History Archive, founded by film maker Steven Spielberg to document the stories of Holocaust survivors for his movie, “Schindler’s List.” In 1994, Spielberg established the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, a non-profit organization, to collect and preserve more than 50,000 firsthand accounts of survivors and other witnesses of the Holocaust. The foundation became the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education in 2006.

The Holocaust Living History Workshop, launched in 2007, aims to teach the history of the Holocaust through two methods of face-to-face contact, both with Holocaust survivors and their children and through the Visual History Archive. Student volunteers have received special training on how to search through the testimonies in the massive Archive, and then teach survivors and their families—from multiple generations—how to use the database. These families can then use the archive to conduct their own searches in order to learn about other people, and in some cases relatives, who had similar Holocaust experiences.

The archive of 52,000 digital oral histories recorded by Holocaust survivors and other witnesses is the foundation for the Holocaust Living History Workshop, a program that has brought together UC San Diego students, San Diego holocaust survivors, and their children. The Workshop, which was established to expand the usefulness and the impact of the Archive, has proven to be a powerful tool for discovering family history and preserving memories for survivors, their families, and members of the community.

The Visual History Archive includes the testimonies of Holocaust survivors from 40,000 specific geographic locations in languages ranging from Bulgarian and Greek to Japanese and Spanish, can be accessed by members of the public from any computer on the UC San Diego campus.

To find out more about UC San Diego’s Holocaust Living History Workshop, contact Marina Triner ( or 858.534.7661) or go to: Interested members of the public are also invited to attend one of the weekly Visual History Archive training open-houses, held on Wednesdays from 5-7pm in the Geisel Library Electronic Classroom (Room 274).

The UC San Diego Libraries, ranked among the top 25 public academic research libraries in the nation, play an integral role in advancing and supporting the university's research, teaching, patient care, and public service missions. The nine libraries that comprise the UCSD Library system provide access to more than 7 million digital and print volumes, journals, and multimedia materials to meet the knowledge demands of scholars, students, and members of the public. Each day, more than 7,300 people stream through one of the university's nine libraries. The Libraries' vast resources and services are accessed more than 87,500 times each day via the UCSD Libraries' Web site.

We aim to bring together local students, teachers, community members, area Holocaust survivors and their families through the use of the USC Shoah Foundation Institute’s Visual History Archive. The Workshop also hopes to demonstrate to UCSD undergraduates the value of this resource.

The Visual History Archive is an important source for learning about the Holocaust because it contains over 52,000 videotaped testimonies by Holocaust survivors and other witnesses, recorded in 56 countries and in 32 languages. About half of them are in English. Although each of the interviews lasts from one to four hours, they are all heavily indexed by names, places, groups, events and subject keywords, making searches on the Archive simple, specific and efficient. This database therefore has the potential to contribute greatly to a student’s understanding of the Holocaust.

Media Contact

Dolores Davies
Director of Communications & Engagement