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tv   Irene Butter Shores Beyond Shores  CSPAN  November 11, 2019 3:29pm-4:45pm EST

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>> you are watching booktv on c-span2 with top nonfiction books and authors of the weekend. booktv, television for serious readers. >> an extra day of nonfiction of the programs this veterans day as the secretary of the smithsonian and sedition lonnie bunch chronicles the gratian of the national museum of african american history and culture.
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[inaudible conversations] >> good evening. good evening. if i can ask the last of her guests to take their seats. i want to welcome everyone. i'm margot lurie contractor programming and engagement at the museum of jewish heritage, a living memorial to holocaust. a little bit about this institution before we go into the program. this is the third-largest holocaust museum in the world. offering a range of rigorous and engaging exhibitions, programs and resources. in a world of rising intolerance, , anti-semitism and holocaust denial, we are called upon to be bolder in mission of education and outreach than ever before through events like this one. tonight if it is indeed a special one. this is the launch of the new edition of "shores beyond shores" power from them wife by irene butter, a survivor of two
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concentration camps camps whose dedicated her life to holocaust education and peace activism. she is the cofounder of the metal and lecture series at the university of michigan where she is professor america public health. she's also one of the founders of an arab jewish women's dialogue group in ann arbor. we are also simply step with us her co-authors john and chris. we are honored to have doctor but in conversation with andrew solomon who is the renowned author of far from the tree, parents, children and the search for identity as well as the new day demon which one that 2001 national book award for nonfiction. he's professor of clinical medical psychology at columbia university medical center and a former president of pen american center. i just want to share with you briefly his reaction to "shores beyond shores." after reading this memoir he was inspired to write that, quote,
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irene rider book is a type of clarity and decision written with a passion intent to inform and was not a shred of self-pity. it is intimate and bears witness to the resilience of a family who drew strength from one another, even through the darkness of the holocaust. it is a shockingly honest and helpful book. that's quite a response, and with that as a starting point i am very much looking forward to this conversation. we will have an audience q&a afterward. following that books and from h are distinguished guests will be on sale in the museum shop and the authors will be available for signing in the main lobby. i'd like to welcome our c-span2 was watching us on booktv. we are going to watch a brief video about auschwitz not long ago, not far away. this is the exhibition that a ts on view at our museum and effort that a program will begin. thank you so much.
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[applause] ♪ ♪ ♪
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>> well, let me begin by thanking the museum of jewish heritage for hosting this important conversation. thanks to the books co-authors. thanks to mary veeck who helped organize this event and many thanks most of all to doctor irene butter. you heard the enthusiasm of my response to the book which is right about before so i won't read it aloud again. but i will say that it is an extraordinary book, extraordinary in part because it tells the story of the holocaust over again, and every time you read it that may come as as a k but also extorted because of the transformation that it describes, , irene, as she went her original experiences as a small child in germany through
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the many painful expenses of the war and then onto a life afterwards. it's very encompassing. it's very humane. i think it's a very, very important book so in honor to be with you. >> thank you very much. >> why do we begin with you too skinny quick description of what happened and what you are and where you went? >> so my book is a a memoir tht covers the first 15 years of my life. i was born in berlin and that age seven my family left to immigrate to the netherlands because of hitler, because of persecution of the jews. my grandfather owned a bank in berlin. my father was a partner and when the bank was taken away by the nazis, because jews were not allowed to own a bank anymore, my father was unemployed and that led him to the netherlands. hoping that we would be safe
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there. we were in holland two years before the invasion by the nazis, and, of course, instantly holland became an occupied country, things happen very gradually. rights were taken away from the jews one by one, and, of course, the worst was the deportation eventually. we were deported to a concentration camp that was also called a transit camp. after eight months we're sent to bergen-belsen. after bergen-belsen, we had the incredible fortune of being included in a prisoner exchange between germany and america. america was sending german citizens who had lived in america but couldn't go back to
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germany when the war began, and held the jews with american passports for this prisoner exchange. and we were included in one of the few transport out of bergen-belsen, after having been there almost a year and barely surviving. then sadly my father died on the train the second night on the train. and when we arrived in switzerland, my mother and my brother were so ill that they had to be hospitalized immediately. the swiss did not allow me to stay there. so i was sent to a displaced persons camp, a refugee camp, in algiers, north africa, and it took one year before i was able to come to america. we had family who provided affidavits eventually. we got visas, and it took six
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more months for my mother and brother to come to america. so altogether i was separated for 18 months from my mother and brother, four days after i i had lost my father. so that's the outline of the story. sometimes people ask me why did you wait so long to write this book? and some of it has to do with just being very busy raising a family, elderly parents, a career. and so after retirement i begin to consider this. and i must say, i'm really glad i waited so long because i think the book is far more relevant today than it would've been ten or 20 years ago, had i had the time to write it. >> talk a little bit about your parents and your family, and the experience you had in being with
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them. i think it was unusual for whole family to remain intact through to the different camps and for that length of time. do you think he would've been able to make it without having been altogether in that way? >> i have serious doubts, because when it came to bergen-belsen i was 13 years old. i think if it had not been for my family i would not have survived very long. family meant everything in those times, because everyone is out for him or herself in concentration camp and you don't think about other people and a child left by itself without parents could barely make it. so i think being together with my parents and my brother helped all of us, davis resilience, gave us support, and gave us the strength to try to survive. >> one of the extraordinary
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things about the book is a wit captures the perspective of the child. i won't make the inevitable comparison to anne frank's diary by the early chapters are really written not in the voice of a chump so much as from the perspective of a child. and then as it goes on you can feel the narrator maturing even at the same time you find the character growing older. when you were writing the book, do you think it's too to your experience? >> yes, it was quite intentional to do that because there are as you all probably know many, many books written by holocaust survivors usually later on in life and usually they were children when they experienced this. but most of the books i have written as an adult tells the story not from the point of view of the child, what did the child here, what did the child see, and what did the child think
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having the background and the conceptual information? what did the child make out of living under the circumstances? my co-authors helped a great deal with this. we tried very hard to incorporate the perspectives in the voice of the child. >> i said when we spoke on the phone sometime ago that i thought it was extraordinary to imagine what it would've been like for dr. butter and her parents to go from the experience of living really in quite considerable luxury into the darkness of the camps. and you said to me, luxury had nothing to do with it. it was just a dehumanizing the same as a would've been if there had not been luxury before. can you say a word about that? >> certainly, the nazis didn't care who you were, whether you were young or old, , whether you
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are male or female, what nationality, what color, what religion, what ethnicity. they treat everybody the same. i really don't think that people who lived a lower standard of living, or maybe less education that my parents, that they suffered less just because they had less before the camps. but i don't know. that's just my perspective. >> i'm going to read you one of my favorites, a brief paragraph in the book. this is about halfway through, and this is in the middle of the bergen-belsen section of the book. we kept trying to make sense of everything, as if an understanding would make the things better. there didn't seem to be any understanding, and certainly no promise so i clung to the simple notion that good people were capable of surviving.
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tell me about that idea trying to make sense out of the experience and how you managed to recover from doing that in the camp itself. >> well, i don't think i ever made sense out of it, but i think what helped me a great deal and i think people who survived needed that. and, of course, some of it is lock, , but i think you have to have a purpose. you have to have a goal. you have to have the strong will to survive when you live under those circumstances. and i did. i wanted to live. one of my dreams was, at that time, i had as a young girl i had read books about heidi, and heidi, you know, some similarities. she had lost her parents. she went to live with her grandfather in switzerland and she was skiing. and so my dream was that i would survive and i would go to switzerland and live in the
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mountains and learn how to ski. and that helped me. >> did you learn how to ski later on? >> never. [laughing] >> there's still time. [laughing] >> talk a little bit about the idea that you had a self image which was the self image of the victim, and before you able to do the public speaking, dr. butter started doing a look speaking long before she wrote the book. when you start to speak out about your experiences and when you started to write this book, and when you went through this time of opening up there was a sense that you were going from being a victim to being something very different. >> yes. well, certainly i had been a victim during those horrible years and all the brutal experiences, but at some point i realized that just because i have been a victim then, that that didn't mean that it was a
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victim for the rest of my life, and i didn't think that should mean who i was. as i thought about that i begin to realize that it's much more powerful and strong to think of myself as a survivor. because as a victim i was hopeless, i was powerless, and people could manipulate anything in my environment. but as a survivor i had potential. i was able to make choices and i could help other people and do good things and mostly move forward. so i reshaped that self image, and i feel that i benefited a
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great deal from kind of reconfiguring things. >> wonder the things that seem to me strikingly different in this book than in others was you describe having really quite significant emotional attachments all the way through. you described the connection to your parents and your brother which is obviously the center one which also described having friendships and particularly in the descriptions of being with the other girls your age taking care of the children and the little children, the tiny children whose parents have been sent out to work at various times, and how you took care of them under these incredible adverse circumstances and tried to give them comfort but also had a connection to the of the people with whom you are doing it. you said in a concentration camp everyone is out for himself or herself, but actually part of what you describe is people within the camp, most of all your parents but also other people who are willing to pause long enough to recognize one another's humanity.
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can you comment on that? >> yes. well, of course, the children had to bring out humanity of those taking care of them because they were so beautiful. they were so hungry. often they were sick and they were totally listless and passive. they just were not like children anymore. it became very important to try to comfort them and maybe introduce some humor or song, and maybe get them to smile if it was only for a second. we didn't have food to give them. we didn't have clothing. we didn't have toys. the only thing we could really get them was love and i think that was really important. and also as the health of our parents deteriorated, there was a role reversal.
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they could no longer take care of my brother and me, and so it became our duty to take care of them because we had more strength, more resilience than they did. and so that's another reason, it was another reason for me to fight for survival because i was taking care of my parents, so i had to the five for that reason. and taking care of other people does give one a feeling of gratification and gives meaning to your life, even under these terrible circumstances. if you can help someone take care of someone just a little bit, that might make their day. >> there was a sociologist who once said, we not only take care
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of our children because we love them, but also love them because we take care of them. that's a very powerful process. tell me how that shift to took place. her father had been an annexed ordinary man doing absolutely everything he possibly could to save his family and then as you began to take care of them, with a able to receive that care? was that a ready reversal or was that a difficult one? >> they were able to receive it because my mother was very ill and she was bedridden for several months in the camp before we left. i was the only one who could take care of her. there wasn't anybody else around. and my father accepted it as well, and they were so weak, they were so miserable that any help that anybody could give them would make a difference.
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yeah, well, i would've liked to get more parenting from them, but that was impossible. >> and tell this story of going to be checked before you put on the train to switzerland and how you and your father went down and you are mistaken for your mother. that's a very moving story. >> yes. well, one day there was an announcement that anybody who had south american passports, which we had and that was the reason we were included in this present exchange, anyone who any passport needed to report to a camp doctor at a certain place in the camp. and so my mother had already been bedridden for several months, and so my brother and i said we should try to dress her and walk her there, but that didn't work.
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she collapsed just right after we got addressed and out of bed, so we took her back to bed. then my brother and i went and had our names checked off by the doctor, and then my father came back from work and he, we only found later what it happened to him. he had been brutally beaten, but he was so weak and he was so miserable, and he seemed to barely be conscious so we told them what it happened, that we had walked with him to the station for screening and he couldn't come he said no, if possible, i had to lie down. so we did, and after a while we begged him to come. because of this seemed to our only chance ever to get out of bergen-belsen. and so eventually he agreed and
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he was leaning heavily on me because he could barely walk. we come to the station and there's the doctor, and he says to my father, you are john? my father says yes. the second question was, are you sick? which seemed ludicrous question but he said no. and then he looked at me and he checked off my mothers name. he said your children have already been here, so get ready. tomorrow you will leave. now, whether a 14 year old girl looked like a 45 year old woman, nobody knows. of course we were both very skinny. we were both wearing rags. but anyway, that did it. >> talk about the pink blanket.
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>> well, the pink blanket is on the back cover of the book, and it is a blanket i had received as a young child in berlin and always took it with me. i i even took it to the concentration camps. it really gave me a great deal of comfort, like a comfort blanket can be for a child or even a person. and i always had it with me, and i still have it now. and it's, maybe you've seen the blanket that is part of this exhibition upstairs and sort of looks like this. the blanket has seen a lot and experienced a lot, so i think it should also be in the museum. >> i hope that it will be. i'm going to read another short passage aloud. this is also from later in the book and i'll ask you to explain what the thank you express was in a moment but let me just read it. poppy like the hanky express, he said.
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he said it was important to get to know other people in other places but if we do that it was a sure way to have more friends and few enemies. i'm not sure i agree anymore. we seem to have a lot of enemies and they looked is right in the face. maybe it's still true, i said, the nazis never bothered to get to know us here i hated everything they saw. i don't think they really saw us at all. tell me about that. what was it like to be unseen in that way? >> well, it makes you feel like a non-entity, like not being human, not being recognized as a person. at auschwitz, of course, people just have numbers and they were a number, and that was the only identity they had was the number tattooed on their arms. but if people don't look at you
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and if they don't call you by your name, then you feel like you are a nobody and you are nothing. >> right. and do you think that if you happened to have those exchange passports, those passports from ecuador, that your family would've survived the war. >> was of course, nobody knows, but we left bergen-belsen three months before it was liberated, and considering the conditions of my parents, i have doubts that they would've lived that long. my brother, possibly, but he had a very bad infection so i don't know where that would have taken him. so the passports certainly were an important element. not all people who had passports survived. not all people were exchanged
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eventually, but in our case it was a fortune, a good fortune. >> and can you explain about those passports? the purpose of that was not to move to ecuador and obviously you are not started life as a citizen of ecuador. tell the story about getting thin and receiving them and how they came to play in your lives. >> well again, part of the exhibition here in the museum shows a console from lithuania i think that we should many passports to jews, and there were consoles in many european countries that did the same thing, hoping that they could rescue them and save their lives. and so my father had met a friend in amsterdam who had just received the passports for him and itself, and he gave my father the name of a met in
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stockholm. and he said to send in four passport pictures come and you don't have to say very much in your letter because he will know why you're sending it. so we were hoping we would receive these passports in the mail, but that did not happen. we were supported to vesta park and the passports had not arrived. but about two or three months later, arrived in the camp, and that was in itself a miracle because passports had been sent to our home address in amsterdam, and we never got any mail forwarded from her home and address. in one day the passports came. so probably had something to do with the fact that germans had, the nazis had a policy, and exchange where they were eager to have a reserve of jews with
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passports that they could use to get german citizens who were in foreign countries when the war began and they couldn't come back to germany, and they wanted to have their germans back to help win the war. so when the passports arrived, we were no longer at risk of being deported to auschwitz. and there was a train every single week leaving for auschwitz. so then we became exchange of jews. we were a special category. and a few months later we were sent to bergen-belsen, and what they told us is that bergen-belsen is an exchange camp, and it's better than what we were which was a total misstatement, and besides that we wouldn't be there very long
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because we would be exchanged. well, it turned out to be a slow death camp that didn't have gas chambers, but the survival rate was very, very low. we were there almost a year before the exchange actually took place. ..
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they had enough to worry about and i had to start acting like a big girl. i heard other people talk about the dead body that turned out to be a man and they didn't seem upset but i couldn't help myself when lucy asked if i was okay. lucy listened to me when she got back, she only said she wassorry. i was glad we were sleeping together . so that's a lovely description i think of the comfort you're able to get from your mother even at that point when she was not very well in talking about whathad happened . how did yourrelationship to death and dead bodies and what was going on in that regard shift and change ? >> when you see so much death day after day, week after week and i hate to admit this but it becomes a normal site to see a dead body.
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like that was the first time and it affected me verydeeply . and i think that somehow that site stayed with me always, that first experience of seeing a dead body. i've never forgotten. >> and describe what it was like when you got to algeria and indeed on the way to algeria. there is a wonderful description of people finishing lunch. was it lunch? perhaps there was lunch. there was lots of leftover food and the bandit just threw them overboard because they finished that meal and he would make another meal and as you say it could have saved your father and could have saved hundreds of lives in the camps but they had thrown it out to the fish . >> it was the first time i had seen hamburger in years and so i ate too many.
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and i was very uncomfortable so i went on the deck and just lie down on the ground they are because that's all i could do. i couldn't sit up and then this man came out of the kitchen with this huge bucket of hamburgers and i heard them/ into the sea and it was such an incredible shock after having been starved and just longing for food day and night and never being satisfied to see that happen and i think maybe it was that experience that even to this day i'm not able to waste food. >> very important. i'm going to read something else for a moment. i am 12 years old. we were taken into custody on or about the evening ofmay 20
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. officers had to take off and give them shoelaces built and valuable. we were then transported to a detention center. there weremany children there, 200 to300 , the lights were on including all night . we went without milk, fruit or vegetables. i was not allowed to be. i was taken to a second detention center and here i was also not allowed to be . it was very cold. i got sick because it was so cold. i had a fever,headache, he wrote eight, and eight all around my body . i told the guards i was sick. i was sick for a total of five days. no one took me to a separate place. the guards were mean and scary, they yelled at us and one day the guards demanded to know who had food. who has food will go to
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prison. they found one kid was 15 years old who had bread area and the officials handcuffed his wrists. i was shocked and scared. it is very sad here. i'm hungry all the time. i'm so hungry that i've woken up in the middle of the night with hunger. sometimes i wake up with hunger at 4 am, sometimes at other hours. i am too scared to ask the officials for any more food. i saw a child ask for more food once and the guard tells him no, you had your rations . i wish i could say that was from this book but that's actually testimony from one of the children in a border camp near the texas border and it was given may this year . tell me how you respond to what's going on in the country now. >> i find it devastating that almost 75 years after the holocaust, we should see these practices of separating children from their families and treating them in such
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abominable, inhumane conditions area little children, little older children without clothing, without food, without medical care,without fresh air . it's incomprehensible to me that this should happen this time and especially in our country, america. it demonstrates that we have not learned and that if we don't learn, then history will repeat itself and for me, it's that we all have a responsibility to act. we can't just leave it alone. we can't say that's happening in texas and there's nothing i can do. each of us can do something. we can't do everything, we can't help everyone but every one of us can do something and i think it's extremely
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important to have been witnesses. there have been people who have been sitting at those caps for days and for weeks and some of them have been closed as a result of that. but then unfortunately the children are just moved to another camp and more and more children are put into these circumstances and i have nightmares about it because it's so horrible to think during the holocaust and to find this happening again today . >> tell me about what you think people can do, what is it one can do as an activist. you talked about the need for constant vigilance and the need for all of us to be activists but where should we begin ? >> there are things we can do
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that are relatively simple. sign petitions. call our legislators and the senators.go in protest, not everybody can go and protest but some of my friends, they go to these camps. they witnessed, they write letters but they also produce records for days and for weeks and recording everything they see. the trucks that go in and the people that go out and sometimes being kind to the guards and give them water or hamburgers to eat because they have hard jobs and maybe that will make the guards kinder. there are things, and we have to do whatever we can to influence our government .
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>> tell me what you make of germany today. it seemed extraordinary from where i sit to see a situation in which germany described here as a mother nation it has been and now is the moral voice ofeurope . we talked about how the united states worked with us as a strong right-wing movement and how has germany managed to respond to the holocaust. >> the experience has been extremely positive. >> i can't generalize it but my father has served in a small town in southern germany and i had been back there about half a dozen times and become friends with the people who take care of the seminary and this is an unusual town. the high schools are named after prominent jews who
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lived in the town before the war. there isn't a single jew living there now but descendents, and visit the cemetery and they always posted generously area they have built i think two decades ago a museum of jewish and christian history and a whole floor of that museum is dedicated to the contributions of former jewish residents to the town and to the community and to the arts and to music and they really embraced the jewish culture that one existed. now the mayor of this town, i receive every year at new year's at the time of rosh hashanah and it's in hebrew which i find amazing as well. they have a house that used the funeral home at the
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entrance to the cemetery. they raise b,2 million to rebuild that house that has now become an education center. and high school students every year, in spring and in fall to help clean up the cemetery so it's a very unusual town and they acknowledge what happens and they are trying to pay back, to make up in anyway they can . we wouldn't find that all over germany, i wish it had become a model but i think there are places like that and certainly the government has taken a strong position to protect jews and to try to stop anti-semitism in any way they can and what i find kind of interesting is that there are many young jews now who settle in berlin and quite a
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number of them come from israel. and it's kind of ironic that young people, young jewish people go back to germany to find ways to give meaning to their ownlives . i think germany has done more than any other country in restitution and any other way , but still, the forces of anti-semitism are all over europe now. >> tell me what you make of that anti-semitism. my own family led various parts of eastern europe during the program so well before the holocaust. i'll tell you though that i went back to the town at my father's father had come from in romania and i went to see the jewish cemetery and there
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was a little note saying that the key was with someone who lived over the road and i went to see him and said can we get the and he explained he wasn't jewish but he liked jews so when hewould be happy to let us in to see it . there's terrible anti-semitism there in romania and i encountered some of it on that trip and on other occasions and there is as you say more and more of it in many parts of europe including on the us and uk and the level of rising anti-semitism in great britain is very shocking. and the germany, jeremy corbin's embrace of anti-semitic positions as been upsetting i think to any british jews. tell me what you make of this rising time. >> i think it probably has always been there but after the holocaust it was suppressed . it wasn't kosher to me, to be
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an anti-semi and now some of our leaders have made it kosher again and so it's just not rising, it's ugly face is coming to the surface again and it's very shocking. and difficult to know what the solution would be. >> very shocking to experience certainly. and tell me about the business you alluded to it before but you arrived, everyone said you don't think about it, don't talk about it, move forward and then there was this extraordinary story of your giving a presentation in i think the first school was with your granddaughter or your daughter. so perhaps you can tell us that story. >> yes, like many other survivors that have mentioned that when they first arrived
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in america after the holocaust, then the message consistently, the message was you have to forget. now you're here. you have to start a new life and don't ever speak about it . and if we tried with our family anyway, if we tried to mention even the slightest incident, we were silenced . and that lasted many years, i would say for decades of silence. when even my mother and my brother and i really talked about the holocaust. and i think it was just, it took a long time for at least four america to be ready to listen to this. i didn't talk to my children very much, but once they
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reached an age where they heard about it and asked questions, i certainly did been in one day my daughter, when she was in middle school , she's a course in public speaking and at the end ofthe course , she was to give, every student had to get a one hour talk to the glass and the topic she chose was and time semitism, hitler's conquest of europe and the concentration camps. over an hour and she came home and she said mom, will you be my visual aid . well, i was petrified at the idea of talking about my own experiences in front of the class but it was my daughter, i couldn't turn her down and that broke the ice in some ways. but there were other forces as well. i was invited to a panel about anne frank when there
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was a photographic exhibition that traveled throughout the country. it came to detroit and as i was thinking about this panel , it dawned on me that anne frank and 6 million others, they will never tell their stories because their voices had been silenced for good. and so since i had survived, since i had that privilege of survival, it was my duty to tell the story and then one day i heard ely was hell speak and he said if you were in the caps, if you smell the air and you heard the silence of the dead, then it's your responsibility to provide testimony, to tell the stories and to be a witness. and that made a very deep impression on me and that's
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when i started talking in schools. it's about 35 years ago and i'm still doing this. >> and what did your mother make of your speaking out, as he also spoken out about his experience? >> it took him a lot longer but it was harder for him . >> why, do you think? >> i think men have a harder time. >> i think that's likelytrue . speaking on their behalf and tell me what it's been like to have the book out. you feel a sense of relief? a sense of accomplishment mark does it resolve anything for you? >> it is a sense of relief that it's all they are now and primarily since i know that i won't be able to go to schools forever and so then there will be the book and it can be used by teachers in
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schools and my story will have this perpetuity, i hope . >> it will have perpetuity and i think it does make a vast difference and i hope that it achieves real and meaningful circulation here and abroad. since i've said, i've read a number of holocaust memoirs and this one provides insight and perspective and ideas that are different and in part, provides them because of that description of what we talked about earlier, a description of how the love within your family and with other people really was able to keep you going through those experiences. i frequently feel overwhelmed by ordinary life in new york. it was very humbling to read all of that. we're ready to open up to questions so from all of you.
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i hope someone will be the firstquestion asked her, it always takes some doing. just there in the front . >> i don't know exactly how to ask this but i was with someone the other night when parents left when he was five. avery wealthy family, they picked up on the left . what makes so few people not leave and wait to see what happens? is it the fact that they take away the things one by one and you can deal with it and you feel that you deal with it, you would say? what makes some people leave and so many just stayand watch ? >> i don't know if that's answerable but i've been wrestling with that . >> it's a difficult question. i think it has to do with
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flexibility, being willing to take that step, which is a big step if you have a family and you are settled in a certain country and community and culture and then to pick up and leave everything behind except your family. it's a huge step. for some of us probably it's unimaginable that i would leave to live in canada, it's unimaginable now to do that and leave everything behind but i think it also has to do with how serious you interpret what's happening, what's going on around you and it's hard for human beings to accept reality, to accept the facts and it's just like when you're smoking and you know that so many people get cancer, you think
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well, it won't happen to me. i can continue to smoke. so a lot of people felt it's not going to happen to me. either the war will end or they will stop deporting people. and you just start dreaming about other possibilities in order to escape the reality. i think it's probably a difference in personality and in risk-taking, willingness to take therisk . >> i remember having the same question as a child myself and i remember being very little and asking my father why if we had relatives who were still in romania why they hadn't left beforethe holocaust and i remember him saying they had nowhere to go . your family was established and could have immigrated but i was quite little and it was when i was learning about the
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holocaust and i found it completely terrifying that idea of not having anywhere to go and it was a question of my international reporting and i opened with that anecdote and with that conversation with my father was here tonight about that experience and about the fear. next question and the microphone will come to you, thereby the item. >> i andrew, kathy addison and thank you both for a very, very interesting hour. i'm curious about are you religious and did not have any impact on how you behave and how you feel and are you still or have you never been? what's your relationshipto judaism ? >> that's also challenging and for me.
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i did not grow up in an orthodox family. my family, extended family, they were all jewish areas we celebrated jewish days but we were not all orthodox. it was not the focus of our lives and then when the holocaust came around, we couldn't even, my brother and i couldn't evengo to religious school because that wasn't allowed anymore . my brother once said that for him, god died in auschwitz and he never went back. he never went to asynagogue . his children in half bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah so that's how he continued to live his life. for me, it isn't quite that way. i do go to i do go to a
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synagogue and we go to services periodically. we go to torah study and the question of is there a god is one that i continue to struggle with. >> there's one just here and then one there. >> thank you again for sharing your story with us and enlightening and comparing it to today. question, your mom was very ill and how did she wind up surviving when most people didn't and then the second is how do you have that beautiful photograph?
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>> i didn't quite understand? >> the first question was about how your mother survived and the second question is how i think the photograph is on the cover of the book survived. >> mother was then dying when we arrived in switzerland but she got very good medical care. it took her a long time to recover, but she did return to good health. >> and the photograph, how did the photograph survive? >> that's another story. we had a neighbor who was a photographer in amsterdam and she offered to keep our photographs when we got deported. you know, such people were not allowed to keep anything from jews or for jews and it was punishable i being sent to a concentration camp, but
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she said if the nazis come, and a photographer so how can they question that ihave a lot of pictures ? so she kept them and then she gave them back to us after the war and i feel extremely fortunate to have all those pictures and in that way, no things about my family history that otherwise i would never have known. >> where was this taken? >> this is in holland in a resort, ac resort of things place with beautiful beaches area and sunporch. >> there was a question just here. >> about the photo, it was just this mall black and white photo but my cowriter and friend john bidwell, he made it beautiful.
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>> thank you for spending your evening with us. i was wondering if over the decades, you ever had the opportunity either by plan or chance to reunite with any of the year's that you encountered in the different places youwere sent ? >> yes i did. with some of them, anyway because primarily the ones that were on the same journey from amsterdam to bergen-belsen and then to algiers because in algiers, we had a lot more time to spend together and to recover from everything and form friendships and some of those friends ended up in new york city like i did. and for a while, i would say probably for a good part of the year they were our only friends and we would see each
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other frequently, but then people moved in different directions and often we lost contact, but then later on in life reconnected and continued the friendship and now of that group of people i'm the only one who's still alive but i take pleasure in being connected with their children. if there are children still alive so that's the continuity that still exists. >> i'm remembering that before social media, keeping in touch was more effort seems to today. there wasanother question i think behind you . can we pass the microphone there? >> high.
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i'm fans of both the viewers, tremendous fans. i question to irene is how you and your brother and your mom actually avoided or dealt with trauma after coming to, coming to this country and dealt with any kind of posttraumatic stress and what about the next generation, your children because in our case, our mom was eight. of yours and it was a hand-me-down kind of situation where we suffered a lot of depression and some of my moms post traumatic stress was carried over into our generation. i wonder how you dealt with that? >> yeah.
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well, i agree with you that there is a lot of intergenerational trauma and i'm embarrassed to say that i'm not a depressed person and i have not suffered from depression but my children have. and maybe even my grandchildren . so there is some kind of transference and i don't think it's well understood, although there's a lot more attention paid to it now and even some research and so yeah, i think it's a very serious problem for the survivors to see the trauma being carried on by successive generations.
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>> there's relatively recent work that i think ispertinent to your question . last mics were exposed to a certain odor and given an electric shock each time that odor came in their direction and they eventually learned to jump and become very tense whenever the odor came their way. the interesting part of the experiment was a didn't dread those mice and the next generation of mice had the same adverse reaction even though they never experienced the electricshock . it goes on and on. there's a question towards the back. >> we have a question allthe way in the back after that . >>. >> could you talk a little more about the blanket? it followed you in many places and how were you able to keep it all those years i guess?
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it's an amazing story about that and i'd like to hear more. >> i don't know. >> thequestion is how do you manage to keep the blanket through all those years ? >> i don't know. i just still have it. >> you spoke about the role reversal where you became your parentsmother . you became your parents parents and as a child of holocaust survivors i've experienced something similar and i was wondering whether you could speak more to that point . how it affected you, becoming your parents parents at such a young age. >> i didn't understand.
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>> how did it affect you to have to take care of your parents, to have to become your parents parent at such a young age? >> that's all i had to live for was really my parents and my brother so it's just natural to do that in that situation. they were sick, they were weak. they couldn't take care of themselves . i had more energy and strength. and of course i love them dearly and that the only thing i had in the world to love, so i would never have questionedit . >> i love the descriptions of your father saying come on heisenberg . come on house in berg, sort of rallying the troops and the good humor he managed to
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show until quite close to the end.i think we will do a couple more questions. we have to that are in this area here. >> hi, thanks so much for speaking and telling your story. my question is about the fact that your father seemed to have had some sort of dignified burial. and maybe i misunderstood that part but you said that he was in a cemetery. specifically in an area where it seems like they cared a lot for that cemetery and something very characteristic of theholocaust is the lack of dignified burials . so i'm just kind of curious about how they were able to get a dignified burial or if you could just clarify that point. >> how your father was able to have a dignified burial unlike so many victims of the holocaust. >> that's always how we felt and even though he died,
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barely out of the concentration camp and so close to freedom , the other side of that was that he was buried in a cemetery, in a grave in a human grave rather than to end up in a pit or in a trench where many dead bodies were thrown and buried and to me, that means a great deal that i've been able to go there and i've gone with my children and with my grandchildren and they will always have as long as the cemetery is there, they will always have a place to go to to visit ancestors. and the fact that the town has been so welcome and is so devoted to this cemetery and taking good care of it, the first time i ever went there
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it was totally overgrown and it took a long time to find my father's grave because i knew there was a gravestone and now it's this beautiful wall around it. it's kept up and there are wonderful people taking care of it so it's just this sort of gratification that has happened that way. actually, when his remains were taken off the train was another town and he was very buried in a christian cemetery then after the war ended, his remains were transferred to a nearby town and had a jewish cemetery and he and two other men died on the train and there buried right nextto each other . and it's meant a great deal that that was possible.
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>> you for speaking to us tonight and i wanted to ask after going through the experience of having to be the parents to your parents and take care of them, and then being without your family in algiers, when you were reunited with your family, were you able and if so how were you able to become the child again and have your mother be the parent again. >> it's a good question. i don't think i ever had the opportunity to be a child again is coming to america was very rough. we had nothing. we were homeless. we were penniless and we were stateless, we didn't have citizenship for so many years. and we had nothing.
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my mother never worked before . and he or she she was single-parent with two teenage children. so life was very rough and my brothers had a job and went to school at night and i went to school and work after school and my mother did low skill jobs so we had to help. we had to help pay the bills and contribute to the family. so i don't think i everbecame a child again . >> we will do one last question. there's someone in the back? someone in the back and someone in the front . >> thanks so much for being here. you said that for a while after the war there weren't very many books or representations of the holocaust, but eventually
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there were a lot of histories and narratives, television shows and films. you didn't need obviously to see them or read them to know the history. did you and if so, what do you think of their accuracy or how they told the stories and are there ones that you remembered? >> it is he any of the representations of the holocaust ? did you read the books, did you see those movies in the first years ? >> i don't recall in the first few years but let's say maybe in the 50s, yes there were films and there were books and at some point my daughter was of the age that she was reading books and she found the books about the holocaust even as i didn't and brought them home and want to talk about them. but i didn't spend a lot of time covering that literature.
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until considerably later. and some of the films, there's an excellent film about the holocaust and there's some that are very hollywood and some, that didn't particularlyinterest me . but the films, show up and the more recent film called the son of saul and in hungary and films, there's those are excellent films and they are excellent books. and i have read a good many of them. especially when i was writing my book . >> last question here and then doctor mother will be signingbooks . and i'm sure that she will be
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very happy to answerquestions during the book signing . >> in the beginning you mentioned your father and his father, your grandfather having the bank. what happened to the rest of your extended family and how difficult was it foryour father to say we're going to leave and leave his father behind ? >> the bank that my grandfather owned was my mother's father and then my father became a partner in the back in terms, my grandparents, my mother's parents were killed. they were deported early in the 40s from berlin and so i never saw them again. my father's family had eight siblings and he is the only one that did not survive. his parents died of natural
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causes before the holocaust but most of his siblings emigrated, some of them to south america, some to the united states, some to belgium, to england and he's the only one that didn't survive. my mother had only one sister and she and her husband were murdered in so before and many other relatives as well. so there wasn't a whole lot of family left after the war. >> i feel we could all continue this conversation for manyhours but i've been given strict instructions not to do that . so before it gets too long i think we will stop there but so many thanks to you for your generosity in sharing your story in the book and in the conversation tonight. >> thank you so much.
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[applause] >> the new c-span online store now has db products. go to c-span to check them out. see what's new forboth tv and all the products . >> that evening. on behalf of the smithsonian nationalmuseum of af


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