JICNY, Connect2 & the Moise Safra Center Present:
A Yom Hashoah Program
Wednesday, May 1st, 2019
Hear the testimony of the last living survivors...
Stories from the Holocaust with
Judith Gertler, Czechoslavakia- Ravensbruck Camp Survivor
Esther Widman, Romania- Survivor of the Transnistria forest
George Wolf, Austria- Ghetto Survivor and Founder of "Music for Survivors"
SEE FULL BIOS BELOW.....
@ The Moise Safra Center, 130 E. 82nd St, NYC
7:15PM Program begins SHARP
No registration required- ALL WELCOME!
Judith Gertler was born in Munkacz, Czechoslavakia . At a very young age, Judy miraculously managed to survive Ravensbruck concentration camp, which was a camp near Berlin that was exclusively for women. There seem to have been many children there along with mothers, but Judy sadly lost her mother before they reached the camp, as they shot her mother who was unable to walk, while Judy continued on with her aunt. Ironically, she gets a birthday card each year from this small work camp stationed in Germany. She once laughed about this to me, saying, “as if it was a resort or something of that nature, to send me a regards note on my birthday! But, this is the Germans for you.”
Sadly, Judy’s mother was basically forced to waive her American citizenship, because her daughter wouldn’t be allowed to come to America with her, and so this so called American citizenship was more of a tease offered to Judy’s mother by the American government in this time of war, than a help to her family. Therefore, not only did the Germans and Poles give false hope to Judy and her mother, but the Americans, and the Swiss Government did as well. Judy said, “They told people Switzerland saved many Jews, they really didn’t. We notified them daily we were there waiting, in the building protected by Swiss police so we felt safe, but when the Germans came in, they marched us right out of there to Ravenbruck with the rest of them.”
On a bright side, Mrs. Gertler got to Israel with her aunt. She became a chayal/ IDF soldier when she became of age. She was among other Holocaust survivors who became soldiers in Israel. She remembers having to guard the boarders of a kibutz with guns at night, and not being fed so well by the owners of the kibbutz. Her and her fellow soldiers eventually smartened up, and stole some meat for themselves to BBQ at night in secret. When I laughed at the surprise of thinking of Judy as a soldier she asked me, “What are you smiling at? This was the biggest honor for me to fight for Israel.”
Eventually once in the US, Judy met Harry, which almost sounds like the “Harry met Sally,” (the famous movie) on the Boardwalk once in America. Harry was also a survivor from Poland, who was a few years older than Judy, and also endured a lot of hardship as a concentration camp victim, and so they understood and cared for each other very much.
Harry Gertler was a Talmud (student) in the well know Yeshiva of Lublin,and many great yeshivot in Poland, but of course being a Polish Jew, he suffered tremendously during the Holocaust in many different death camps. With Gd’s help Judy and Harry had a son, who eventually also blessed them with beautiful grandchildren, which is their best personal revenge to their horrific Holocaust experience.
Esther Widman was born in a town near Chernovitz (Moldova, Romania), lived little Esther, with her parents and both sets of grandparents. At the tender age of 5 in October 1941, the Germans evacuated her town and forced everyone to go “hiking” in the forests on a horrific journey, which turned into years of torture in Transnistria where she spent the war years. Esther lost her father and two sets of grandparents. She says she witnessed many horrible things on this journey that she doesn’t even care to share and frighten people with. She shared being so hungry those years being dragged through the forest with her family by the Nazis. Her mom used to comfort her and remind her, “you are like Esther Hamalka, she also had to fast and then was saved.”
Miraculously she eventually re-cuperated, though suffering some physical ailments from this whole ordeal for the rest of her life. She lived with her mom in Israel at mizrachi youth Alya centers in Petach Tikva and Beit Zeirot Mizrachi in Tel Aviv. It was there in Israel that Esther attended the Lewinsky teacher’s seminary where she followed her calling to teach, and then married another survivor. They had a few beautiful children, as was her dream to re-build her beautiful family. She became a mother to two and later a grandmother to five, and all of her children and grandchildren followed in her footsteps to become educated professionals, fulfilling her aspirations for them.
After coming to America in 1960, she attended Brooklyn College from 1963-1975, earning a BA, as well as a Master’s of Science in Education. She used these hard earned skills by working in several yeshivot in early childhood education.
Esther’s work extended into the community around her, as she was one of the original founders of NAHOS, namely The National Association of Jewish Child Holocaust Survivors in 1986, and remains president until today. She works tirelessly in coordinating and facilitating group meetings in New York City. Esther also remains an instrumental speaker on Holocaust education in public schools, colleges, and Hillel houses. Her spirit, charisma, and compassion have touched and influenced thousands of students over the years.
George Wolf is a Viennese Jew who was forced to escape the Nazis at a young age. George does not consider himself to be in the same category as camp survivors, or those who suffered viciously in the hands of the Nazis. However, George did sacrifice and have to escape his home country because of his Jewish identity. Additionally he suffered many losses, as he and his parents were the only ones of his extensive family to escape the Nazis. The rest including his beloved grandparents were deported to Theresienstadt and gradually, one by one, shipped to Auschwitz to be murdered. Only one first cousin survived, as a teenager she was able to work and was sent out to do agricultural work for the Nazi guards, unable to keep even a potato. But by the time her number came up, the Russian troops had liberated the camp.
George has impressively devoted a large portion of his life to help Holocaust survivors live out the rest of their years comfortably, and also to bring fulfillment to their lives. He works tirelessly at the Blue Card, a well-known social service agency that helps survivors with entitlements.
George also runs a program called "Music for Survivors" both with live Juilliard music students and on an interactive computer program of Self Help, the social service agency, aimed at enhancing the cultural life of Holocaust survivors.
He just returned from Vienna, where he was a guest of their University for Music and the Performing Arts, gave lectures, met with students, did a reading at a concert of music of an only recently rediscovered exiled composer (who was a friend of his) on their national TV. He did this all in his native tongue of Viennese-inflected German. He is now working on poetry written by said composer in English and translating it into German that will be published in Vienna. This will help spread Jewish works of art, within a not-so Jewish friendly society in Europe. He also advocated for a version of his "Music for Survivors" program to be implemented in Vienna.