Meet Local Holocaust Survivors and Hear Their Stories

This winter quarter the Holocaust Living History Workshop once again offers students, faculty, staff, and the general public the opportunity to meet local Holocaust survivors.  At these events, students and local community members will hear survivor’s stories, ask questions, and learn how each speaker rebuilt their life after 1945.  This series is open to the public.

The Holocaust Living History Workshop is an educational outreach program sponsored by the UC San Diego Libraries and the Judaic Studies Program.  The mission of the Workshop is to preserve the memory of victims and survivors of the Holocaust.  Three local survivors and one second generation survivor will present their stories, including:

  • February 3– Dr. Edith Eger
  • February 17– Ms. Ruth Klampert
  • Febrary 24– Fred Schenk
  • March 3– Robert Frimtzis

At the presentations, members of the campus community and the public will have the opportunity to meet the survivors and hear their stories and also learn about other survivors’ testimony from the USC Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive, which includes the personal stories of more than 50,000 survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust.  All presentations will take place at 5:00 p.m. in the Seuss Room on the main floor of the Geisel Library Building.

The February 3rd presentation will focus on the experiences of Dr. Edith Eger, a survivor of the Auschwitz, Gunskirchen, and Mauthausen concentration camps. Eger, who came to the U.S. with her husband and daughter in 1949, earned her PhD in psychology and now has her own psychotherapy practice and an appointment at UC San Diego. Eger is a contributor to Chicken Soup for the Golden Soul and travels worldwide to share her story with others, in addition to counseling patients with post-traumatic stress disorder.

On February 17th Ms. Ruth Klampert will share her story.  Ruth came escaped from Vienna to the United States in 1940 with her mother.  Her story provides a unique perspective of those children who knew little about their own families’ past and how they dealt with this absence.

On February 24th Mr. Fred Schenk will discuss the experiences of his father, Sydney Schenk, who grew up in Peregrul-Mare, in what was then Austria-Hungary.  Sydney Schenk was liberated in Yugoslavia at the end of the war and later moved to Los Angeles, where is raised a family.  Fred Schenk will also discuss what it was like being the child of a Holocaust survivor.

On March 3rd Dr. Robert Frimtzis will present his experiences in the Holocaust and his life after as a flight an aerospace engineer for NASA, Hughes Aircraft Company, and TRW.  His book From Tajikistan to the Moon discusses his experiences escaping from the Nazis and his postwar career.

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 filmmaker Steven Spielberg to document the stories of Holocaust survivors for his movie, Shindler’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. In January 2006, the Foundation became the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education.

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, directed by Professor Deborah Hertz, Herman Wouk Chair of Modern Jewish Studies, was established to expand the usefulness and the impact of the archive and has proven to be a powerful tool for discovering family history and preserving memories for survivors, their families, and members of the community.

The Holocaust Living History Workshop, launched last year, 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 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, and can be accessed by members of the public from any computer on the UC San Diego campus.

Members of the campus community and the public are welcome to attend one of the weekly Visual History Archive training open house sessions held on Wednesdays from 5-7 p.m. For more information about the training and UC San Diego’s Holocaust Living History Workshop, please contact Amy Edwards at aledwards@ucsd.edu or 858.534.7661.

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