Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Darrell's reflections on the interview

It's been about a month now since we met Ms. Firestone and mostly everything has been said by my group-mates and myself. But what still stands out to me and what I haven't digested is that she said her life was saved from going on a death march. That is remarkable to me, that the "death march" saved her life, because it sent her from Auschwitz to a forced labor camp. And after being there for four months the camp was liberated by the Russians. Which to me just gets weirder, because a Russian officer tells her that his men will be pillaging so stay inside out of sight until they have moved on because if not she would probably be raped. Being raped by your liberators was a concept I never imagined. And then being released with no food, money, or extra clothes, just having the things you have at the camp and having to fend for yourself as you try to make your way back to your homeland. That to me is probably the most remarkable part of the story. Yeah you're free but things haven't really gotten any better.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Renee's reasons for dedicating her life to becoming a "storyteller"

Hey all, Karen here, I want to elaborate on the story of how Renee became a "storyteller." Alyssa briefly mentioned it, but I think it's worth hearing the whole story because it speaks volumes about this amazing woman. After hearing her speak at the Museum of Tolerance we, as a group of 4, were allowed some private time with her to ask questions. I posed the question "how did you begin to tell your story and why? Her response touched my heart more than you can imagine. Renee stated that she was contacted, by phone at home, by a man (she didn't remember his name) who was involved with Simon Wiesenthal and his endeavors to start the Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum (The Museum of Tolerance) here in Los Angeles. He stated that they wanted her to come and share her story of survival with the public. Her own words were that she laughed at him and hung up the phone. At the time, Renee was a Professor of Fashion Design, at UCLA, and had a prosperous career and was very content with her life. Two days later she claimed that she suffered from her first ever Holocaust nightmare, waking herself in the middle of the night hearing her own voice screaming "They said it wouldn't happen again, they said it wouldn't happen again." This stunned her. This phone call spurred the memories for her. The next day, while reading the morning paper, she found a story about a synagogue in Los Angeles that had been burned to the ground. She said that from that very minute she knew that her life had to be dedicated to informing the public about the horrors or it would just keep happening. That was 32 years ago and she does not regret the turn her life took. She is proud of what she has accomplished. Now you too can realize what Renee and the many others that share their stories with this generation mean to future generations. But most of all, for me personally, she is a woman I will never forget for so many reasons!!!!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Alyssa's Reaction to Watching The Last Days

After meeting with Renee, our group decided to view Steven Spielberg's documentary that she participated in, The Last Days. While we had heard Renee's story first hand, she gave not only more detail, but in the documentary we got to see her firsthand reactions to stories she had shared with us, such as her meeting with Dr. Munch and her experience going back to her hometown in Hungary and finding her house. The documentary not only followed Renee and a number of other survivors as they went back to Auschwitz and their hometowns across Eastern Europe with their families, but it also showed detailed footage of the camps. Some of the footage was extremely difficult to watch, and I know myself and some of the others needed to look away at times.
But for me, the most moving part of the documentary was watching Renee's experience in her hometown showing her husband and daughter what it used to be like for her growing up. It was so sad watching her go up to her childhood house and then tell her family she wished she had never come back. But as sad as it was to watch, it also made me want to go back to Poland where my family is from and go back to Auschwitz. Although I have been before, I never felt once would be enough and watching the documentary inspired me to go again this summer. Overall, listening to Renee's stories and experiences makes me even more grateful to her and other survivors that they did survive and are open about their horrific stories so that not only will it not happen again, but I get to be here and be safe as a Jewish person in both Europe and America.

Link to Full Shoah Testimony