Monday, August 24, 2009

Thank you, Jewish Tribune!

The Jewish Tribune

July 2, 2009/

Tamuz 10, 5769

Page 9



Azrieli Foundation aims to preserve Holocaust survivors’ memories

Tevy Pilc

Staff Writer

TORONTO – “I was trembling with terror, unsure of what I should say but suddenly I could hear inside my head what my father said after his interrogation: The pain of a slap on the face will go away but the spoken word will remain,” reads Paul-Henri Rips from E/96: Fate Undecided, where he looked death in the eye in the form of a German soldier after he and the boys in his Belgium school were rounded up. E/96: Fate Undecided is a part of the second series of Holocaust survivor memoirs, published and released by the Azrieli Foundation, a Canadian philanthropic organization founded by Israeli real estate mogul David Azrieli. More than 800 attendees got an increasing rare opportunity to hear Holocaust survivors tell their stories in person at the book launch recently at the Winter Garden Theatre.

The event was hosted by veteran CBC journalist Joe Schlesinger and included a keynote address by Nechama Tec, whose 1993 book Defiance was made into a Hollywood movie of the same name last year.

The memoirs program was established in 2005, with thepurpose of preserving and sharing the memoirs and diaries written by Holocaust survivors who later made their way to Canada. After writing and publishing his own story, Azrieli began collecting personal testimonies, manuscripts and other firsthand accounts of the Holo-caust, which would translate into the 2007 release of the first series of books.

The second features eight volumes with five in English, three in French featuring heart-wrenching tales of enduring the war in ghettos, concentration and labour camps, hiding with non-Jews or in the forest, or by fleeing to the Soviet Union. Readings were delivered in person as well as by living relatives including Lynda Kraar, who read from Album of My Life, which her mother Ann Szedlecki completed shortly before her death four years ago.

“The deterioration of my sweet, dear brother will always be the most painful chapter of my life,” read Kraar, vividly describing the dark days her mother spent caring for her brother, her last living family member, who was sent to a labour camp in the Soviet Union where he contracted tuberculosis, eventually succumbing to it at 23. Knowing the decision would cost her, she took three days off work after his death. She too was sent to labour camp, which she survived and eventually began a new life after immigrating to Canada in 1953.

Naomi Azrieli, the foundation’s executive director, said the program is about more than honouring and remembering the survivors. She spoke about the recent success of the memoirs, despite diminishing numbers of remaining survivors. Like the first series, the new books are made available free to libraries, schools and Holocaust-education programs and at events sponsored by the foundation. They may also be downloaded online for free at