Holocaust experts won't let horror fade

Posted: October 28, 2017 at 3:37 a.m.

Teacher Noah Lederman leads a session Friday on the consequences of the Holocaust on future generations during the 26th annual Holocaust Education Conference at the Jones Center in Springdale.

SPRINGDALE -- Erika Gold recalls hearing radio broadcasts of Adolf Hitler's speeches while she was growing up in Hungary in the 1930s.

Erika Gold, a Holocaust survivor, participates in the Music as Propaganda break-out session Friday led by Deb Smith during the annual Holocaust Educat...

Funding

The Jewish Federation of Arkansas and the Arkansas Humanities Council provided money for this year’s Holocaust Education Conference.

Source: Staff report

"You didn't have to know German to know it wasn't good," Gold told a crowd of mostly teens Friday during the 26th annual Holocaust Education Conference at The Jones Center in Springdale.

The Holocaust survivor talked about how she and other Jews were forced to wear a yellow Star of David and how her father was forced to close his store and report to a labor camp.

Her mother got jobs for herself and Gold in a factory making soldiers' uniforms. They slept on the floor on the uniforms at night, she said.

On Dec. 1, 1944, Nazis showed up and whisked 300 people away from the factory in trucks, including Gold and her mother. The two of them managed to escape by hopping off their truck when it stopped at a busy marketplace in Budapest. Nearly everyone else rounded up in that group never returned.

Gold and her mother found refuge with a non-Jewish woman who had been their housekeeper, Gold said. They stayed with her until the Russians liberated Hungary six weeks later. Eventually they reunited with Gold's father and immigrated to the United States in 1950, when Gold was 18. She went on to work as a medical technician.

Gold, who now lives in the Cleveland area, said there were good people all over the world at the time of the Holocaust who were trying to help.

"Just not enough," she added.

The Holocaust was the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of 6 million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators, according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum website.

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Northwest Arkansas' annual Holocaust Education Conference invites people with expertise on the topic to speak to students and adults who attend. Friday's conference drew about 300 people, including students from Bentonville, Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers and Siloam Springs.

The conference adopts a different theme each year. This year's theme was "causes and consequences."

Grace Donoho, a Fayetteville resident, grew up in Chicago in a largely Jewish neighborhood. Though not Jewish herself, she gained an appreciation of Jewish people and their traditions, she said.

Donoho moved to Northwest Arkansas, where her children did not learn about the Holocaust in public school. That prompted her to start the conference and the education committee that organizes it.

"It's important to me to teach about the Holocaust, because we're losing survivors and there's just a lot of things going on in the world," Donoho said.

She added she doesn't like hearing the phrase "never again" in relation to the Holocaust, because similar atrocities have happened since then and are happening now in the world.

During one of Friday's breakout sessions, Noah Lederman, a high school teacher from New York, shared the story of his grandparents, Leon and Hadasa Lederman, Holocaust survivors who grew up in Poland.

Lederman, 36, published a book this year, A World Erased: A Grandson's Search for His Family's Holocaust Secrets. The book is based on periodic conversations Lederman had over the course of six years with his grandmother about her and her husband's experience in concentration camps.

Before that time, his grandparents always had deflected his questions about their experiences.

"They'd say, 'Not now,' or "Nothing to tell,'" Lederman said. "Or I'd get their PG story of the Holocaust."

Lederman compared the process of sorting out his grandparents' stories to that of putting together a jigsaw puzzle of thousands of pieces.

He shared pictures he'd taken from his trips to central Poland in 2004 and 2016 to see where his grandparents lived before World War II. The Ledermans later immigrated to the United States.

Laura Pritchard Dobrin, a teacher fellow with the Holocaust Memorial Museum, led another conference session on Nazi propaganda and how it influenced people and policy.

Propaganda "a lot of times uses half-truths, omits information selectively, simplifies complex issues," Dobrin said.

Participants discussed examples of Nazi posters, many of which portrayed Jewish people as the enemy, and German children's books that dehumanized Jews.

The Nazis used propaganda as a way of breaking down individualism and forming bonds of patriotic unity, Dobrin said.

Campbell Coleman, a ninth-grader at Haas Hall Academy in Fayetteville, attended Lederman's and Dobrin's sessions.

"It's very thought-provoking," Campbell said about the conference. "It's opening my eyes to some of the horrors of the Holocaust. I had studied it before, but this was just more information on it."

Some speakers at Friday's conference made other appearances at schools and elsewhere in Northwest Arkansas this week. Lederman, for example, also gave a presentation to more than 100 women inmates at the Washington County jail. They gave him a standing ovation, Donoho said.

Last year's conference and other appearances made by conference speakers in the area reached about 1,700 people, Donoho said.

"It's been a joy to be a part of this. I'm very proud of what our committee is doing," she said.

Metro on 10/28/2017