Friday, January 28, 2011

Holocaust Remembrance at the U.N.

This blog comes from Bonnie Gurewitsch, curator and archivist at the Museum. This week she participated in the annual Holocaust and the United Nations Programme event at the UN in commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which took place yesterday.

I was pleased to have been invited to speak with Frank Blaichman, a Holocaust survivor who was a partisan. The master of ceremonies, Kiyo Akasak, the UN Under-Secretary General for Communications and Public Information, greeted me and Blaichman personally, and briefly welcomed the audience, which was comprised of at least 250 people of all ages and ethnicities. Then they showed the film, Daring to Resist, a very good one hr documentary made about10 years ago with the help of the Museum, about 3 women resisters. The film was selected because of the theme of this year's commemorations - Women and the Holocaust: Courage and Compassion.

I then spoke briefly about the historical aspects of the film putting Jewish resistance in context with special attention to women's experiences. Then Mr. Blaichman offered his remarks. When the floor was first opened up for questions, the audience remained silent. Then Kimberly Mann, the very personable moderator asked two questions she had prepared to get things started. Her question to me was a good one: "If you were a young person and wanted to resist the Nazis, where and how would you find a resistance group?" It gave me a chance to discuss the role of the Zionist youth organizations, Jewish community structures in small towns, and Jewish - non-Jewish cooperation. After Frank Blaichman answered Kimberly's question for him, the audience woke up and there was a lively interchange for a good 50 minutes.

Most questions were intelligent and thoughtful. Some of the more interesting questions addressed the issues of survivor silence, assistance from the local population, what did people in the US know in 1938 [ in reaction to the St. Louis incident], and why people did not believe the reports about mass murder.

By the time the moderator closed the event, the audience was disappointed that the evening was ending. After the event several people came over to me with questions. It was well attended and well run, and the audience was interested and appreciative. It was nice that the Museum of Jewish Heritage was included in the U.N’s programming.

image: Frank Blaichman when he was a partisan.

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