Become a witness:
Remembering the Holocaust

“The passing on of the story is very important. It has become my mission - not so much my story, as the story of this genocide, of the Holocaust,” said Holocaust survivor Eva Kuper (left), seen here in 2005 with Sister Klara Jaroszynska, the woman who saved her.

“I believe with all my heart that the person who listens to a witness becomes a witness.”- Elie Wiesel

“There are parts of my story that bring tears to my eyes. My life was spared by a series of miracles, the first of which was that I was saved at the last moment from the train which was taking my mother and me to Treblinka, where she was murdered.  Miracles play a part in the story of every survivor,” said Eva Kuper, a “hidden child” and Holocaust survivor.

Born in Warsaw in 1940, Kuper was displaced to the Ghetto with her parents. After her mother was taken, her father managed to escape with two-year old Kuper through the sewers, entrusting her safety to foreigners. She was hidden in a convent for blind children until the end of the war. Today, Kuper is a volunteer speaker at the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre (MHMC) where she often gives her testimony to Museum visitors and sits on the Yom Hashoah committee. She has shared her story in a film and has written it for posterity.

5,000

There are close to 5,000 Holocaust survivors still living in Montreal.

“Personally, the passing on of the story is very important. It has become my mission – not so much my story, as the story of this genocide, of the Holocaust. I am probably one of the youngest survivors and I’m not young,” she said. “It’s not going to be too long from now when there will be no living survivors. Then it’s going to be up to the generation of my children and my grandchildren, etcetera, etcetera to tell the story.”

The MHMC has been preparing for this inevitability for several years. They started videotaping survivor testimonies 16 years ago and have collected over 500 so far. The testimonies are entered in a searchable database, used on their website and in the collection in the Museum. Survivors are quoted in articles and educational materials, and the MHMC will be starting a YouTube channel with the testimonies.

“At the beginning they were much shorter – an hour to an hour and a half – and now we let people express themselves; about the Holocaust, before the Holocaust and how they reconstructed their lives. Now interviews can go from an hour to two or three hours,” said Eszter Andor, Remembrance Coordinator at the MHMC. “We are hoping that, in time, all the schools that cannot make it to Montreal and to the Holocaust Museum to hear a living survivor will have access over the Internet to certain interviews and certain survivor testimonies so they can get this personal story and perspective of the Holocaust.”

Andor explained that using social media is a key way to reach the younger generation. Aside from the YouTube channel, the MHMC is on Facebook and has an extensive website targeting this population. Many events are organized throughout the year in partnership with other organizations and communities as the MHMC focuses on outreach and links with a universal message.

“We are bringing younger people in to our structure so they themselves become more educated about the topic and also that they are able to influence their social and family groups. The message has to be personal responsibility…..in their life, today, when they see injustice, discrimination, bullying…what is their role, their responsibility? Other programs, like the Jewish camps, all the Jewish schools, March of the Living – they all have Holocaust education pieces. Even the Birthright trip to Israel goes to Yad Vashem. It has to be a concerted effort. Not only in Montreal, but worldwide,” said Kuper. “Because the younger generation is so used to visual media, I find that their response, their emotions are more easily accessed in discussion after a film then after a story. We have to try to use every avenue of communication, and since the electronic avenue is the one with which youth are so comfortable, it is an effective medium when approaching Holocaust education with this age group.”

Aside from the testimonies and events, personal objects on display at the Museum also have a significant impact on continuing the message of the Holocaust.

“We can thank the survivors for the Museum, for all the objects they donated and the personal stories that go with the objects because it’s always more immediate when you see an object and you know the story. For example, you have a menorah and you can tell the story of what a menorah is, what holiday you celebrate with a menorah and you can talk about the person who owned the menorah, what happened to that family and about how the menorah came to this country. So there’s a lot of emotion there,” Andor said.

For Kuper, all of these initiatives are critical to ensuring that there continues to be witnesses to the Holocaust, long after the last survivor is gone.

“It’s only in very recent times, in the last 25-30 years, that people have been coming out of the shadows of their memories and have found the courage to express what they went through. It is extremely powerful for people to hear it directly from the mouths of those of us who have lived it. The horror of it is much more real when it comes from a real person, standing in front of you,” Kuper said. “I always end my presentation by asking why my audience thinks I do this, why they think I testify, tell my story.  Even with young children, I always do that. They know the answer- they tell me that I want them to know about it so that they will remember.”

Federation CJA allocated $319,433 to the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre.


Become a witness

Do you know a Holocaust survivor who could share their story? Have you ever visited the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre? Help carry on the story of the Holocaust.

For more information, visit www.mhmc.ca or call 514-345-2605.

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