‎Remembering the Holocaust: Ruth Lichtenstein and Project Witness ‎

November 21, 2013 2:53 pm 6 comments

The 15th Street/Eisenhower Plaza entrance to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Photo: Max Reid, USHMM Photo Archives.

It was May 7, 1945, when the Germans signed the surrender agreement that ended World War II, and what we now know as the Holocaust. Six million Jews were killed – virtually all of the Jewish communities in Germany and Eastern Europe were not only wiped out, but their cultures decimated and their survivors scattered throughout the world. Of those who survived, their job was not only remembering, but rebuilding the Jewish people and the cultures in which they lived and practiced their religion. Since the war ended, Jews have made a point of remembering the Holocaust. For both, the human need to mourn, and the religious need to remember what the enemies of the Jews had done (Deuteronomy 25:17-19), the Jewish community has always remembered. For the generations that followed the war, it was stories of the survivors, told by the men and women themselves, that were often the strongest educational means for conveying to children just what had occurred and by whom.

Books like The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, who perished, and historical accounts told by survivor Elie Wiesel, were among the most vivid testimonies that captured the soul wrenching period. Jewish advocates pushed through sweeping legislation in western countries that encouraged Holocaust remembrance.

The sad truth about Jewish history is that there have always been incredibly powerful forces against the Jewish people. The further we get from the event, the easier it may get to deny the Holocaust, to make the world forget.

I am the grandson of Holocaust survivors. My family lost 70 family members or more in the Holocaust. My mother, Penny Waga, was born in a DP camp outside of Legnicia, Poland, and my grandparents, Morris and Rose Waga, survived the Holocaust. Yet, we lost so many, and their stories are lost with them. The Nazis tattooed Jews’ arms with numbers and killed millions of our people only two generations ago.

Those involved with Holocaust education must be praised, for they are ensuring that the lessons and history of the Holocaust live on. An organization called Project Witness has taken the lead on creating a curriculum for many schools on important educational initiatives around the Holocaust. Led by journalist, author, and daughter of survivors – Ruth Lichtenstein – Project Witness seeks to change the way the Holocaust is viewed. Lichtenstein believes that the period is often reduced to a footnote in history books or becomes an overused point of contrast. She says it is frequently referenced, but little understood.

In her desire to help future generation remember without the benefit of direct witnesses, Ruth Lichtenstein feels that the lessons still resonate, that the forces of hatred still haunt the Jewish people. Therefore, Lichtenstein believes that the challenges of keeping the flame alive require us to work tirelessly to offer deeper understandings of the period and events.

Project Witness not only delivers personal stories of survivors, but explores the spiritual, ethical, and intellectual responses of those directly affected by the Holocaust. It focuses on the character, identity, and faith of survivors and victims alike to ensure that their legacies help future generations build a brighter future.

Lichtenstein believes that the lessons of the ways Jews in occupied Europe, particularly in the ghettos and concentration camps of Eastern Europe, heroically struggled against impossible odds to maintain Jewish values offer key lessons. Her curriculum delves into the reasons that Jews maintained their religious faith in the worst of circumstances, and the strength it took to organize charitable and cultural initiatives under German rule, at great risk to their own lives. This spiritual revolt, which pitted the Jewish life-affirming values of intellect, compassion, and the sanctity of life against the Nazi ethos of violence, racism, and death, are lessons Lichtenstein believes will survive countless generations beyond the last survivor.

Her organization has looked to build a country-by-country history of the Holocaust, and Lichtenstein’s amazing book, “Witness to History,” is simply one that belongs in every single Jewish home. Lichtenstein is convinced that just as stories of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and Jewish resistance were powerful images for young Jews, she believes that the spiritual resistance to the Nazis is a model for all communities – that it teaches people how to live with compassion, faith, and dignity.

For her work, her faith, and her commitment to the Jewish people, Ruth Lichtenstein must not only be applauded, but assisted by us all in the monumental task. Her work is likely to have a lasting impact on Jews for many generations to come.

6 Comments

  • Michael Zurwin

    My parents were in a Nazi prison “camp” in German occupied France where I was conceived and born….in Vittel…. We were liberated when I was less than a year old….and yet, despite the horrors of the Holocaust, the United States, even after the revelations of the 6,000,000+ massacred, did not want to allow or encourage emigration of survivors!!! Hence all the Jewish emigration to Central and Latin America!! My father was committed to finding a way to come to America despite its anti-survivor anti-immigration mindset….so, he brought us to Cuba and vowed to swim to Miami if necessary to effect passage to America….the greatest country in the history of the planet Earth. He didn’t have to… After a year of persistently badgering the American consul in Cuba, he got the papers we needed…..and life in America turned out to be EVERYTHING we hoped and prayed for….God Bless America!!! That having been said and with the Holocaust so vividly remembered….why the multifold resurgences of AntiSemitism all over Europe?

    Because the Holocaust is still with us! If not physically, then spiritually!

  • I’d like to reserve 2 seats for the Wednesday screening at Monticello High School.

    What do I need to do ?

    Thank you

  • My mother, who came to England on the Kindertransport, has never told her story as she feels that it is not very interesting compared to others but I feel that it should be recorded somewhere. Please help me to encourage her to do so and let me know how to go about it

    • leah scharf

      I definitely think it should be recorded. I am a child
      survivor of Bergen Belsen, but my heart aches for those
      children who’se parents made such sacrifices and sent
      them so far away; never to see them again and who perished in the Holocaust, murdered by the Germans.
      Leah Scharf

  • Never Again is what we say, but lets pray we remember these lessons every day. Well-written nice article.

  • I once saw Ruth Lichtenstein speak and was so impressed with her poise, her strength and her story. A true woman of valor and a Jewess committed to strengthening our people.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Blogs Sports Gold on the Galilee: Israeli Kayaker Comes of Age, Eyes Olympics (VIDEO)

    Gold on the Galilee: Israeli Kayaker Comes of Age, Eyes Olympics (VIDEO)

    JNS.org – Three years ago, kayaking coach Roei Lev found aspiring Olympian Ilya Podpolnyy crying on the steps of the Jordan Valley Sprint Kayak Club overlooking the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). Podpolnyy, then 17 years old, had just been disqualified from the Israeli kayaking championship. He couldn’t survive the heats. He didn’t make the start line. He was devastated—and he had no one with whom to share his hopes, his dreams, and his disappointment. His divorced parents still live in [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Lena Dunham Responds to Charges of Antisemitism: It was Just a Jew Joke

    Lena Dunham Responds to Charges of Antisemitism: It was Just a Jew Joke

    “Girls” creator Lena Dunham responded on Tuesday to charges of antisemitism over an article she had penned for the New Yorker, saying it was all in good humor. Speaking to Variety, Dunham reflected on her “tight-knit Jewish family, where Jew jokes were part of the essential fiber of our communication.” The article Dunham referred to was called “Dog or Jewish Boyfriend? A Quiz,” with options such as “He doesn’t Tip” and “He’s Crazy for Cream Cheese.” Among Dunham’s critics, Anti-Defamation [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Former NBA Star Tweets Article About Jewish Conspiracy to Control Global Media

    Former NBA Star Tweets Article About Jewish Conspiracy to Control Global Media

    Retired NBA player Keyon Dooling tweeted a link on Wednesday to a wildly antisemitic article that accuses Jews of seizing control of the world’s media and using it to promote their own interests. The article, published by an obscure blog in April 2013, highlights six companies it claims are owned by Jews — such as Time Warner, Inc. and the Walt Disney Company – that allegedly “control 96 percent of the world’s media.”  The post includes allegations of “Jewish control” and says [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Rosh Hashanah Won’t Keep the Giants’ Geoff Schwartz From Season Opener

    Rosh Hashanah Won’t Keep the Giants’ Geoff Schwartz From Season Opener

    New York Giants offensive guard Geoff Schwartz responded to an outcry from Jewish fans on Tuesday, saying he will go ahead and play in the season opener despite the fact that it falls on the first night of Rosh Hashanah. “Keep getting tweets about that being the first night of Rosh Hashanah… Don’t know what I’m supposed to tell you. It’s a tough break,” the Jewish athlete wrote, referring to the Giants’ on-the-road game against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, Sept. [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Jewish Coach David Blatt Has NBA’s Cavaliers Surging at Playoff Time

    Jewish Coach David Blatt Has NBA’s Cavaliers Surging at Playoff Time

    JNS.org – When David Blatt was hired as head coach of the National Basketball Association’s Cleveland Cavaliers last June, he was not often recognized when he walked the streets of downtown Cleveland. What a difference a year makes. Now, Blatt can go few places without being recognized. For good reason. The Jewish coach has the Cavaliers in the mix to win the city of Cleveland’s first championship in a major sport since the Browns won the National Football League title in [...]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports Croatian Soccer Star’s Hebrew Tattoo Causes a Stir Online

    Croatian Soccer Star’s Hebrew Tattoo Causes a Stir Online

    A Hebrew tattoo sported by Croatian soccer star Mario Mandzukic became an internet sensation in Israel after it was exposed on Tuesday during a Champions League match between Ateltico Madrid and Real Madrid A first glance, the tattoo, on the athlete’s back, might leave one with the impression that it was an unfortunate artistic mistake, since the Hebrew letters do not make sense as they are written. However, a closer look at the tattoo shows that it was actually written [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Theater Why an Algemeiner Editor Wrote a Play About a Mass Shooter

    Why an Algemeiner Editor Wrote a Play About a Mass Shooter

    For the past two years, I have served as Opinion Editor at The Algemeiner. I’m perhaps most proud of the paper’s commitment to publishing diverse and opposing viewpoints on the controversial issues of the day. We pride ourselves on voicing different opinions because we know that most issues are not black and white, and because our community is better served by a public debate. In my life outside of the paper, I am a professional actor and playwright. And similarly, [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Commentary In ‘America in Retreat,’ a Real-Life Risk Board

    In ‘America in Retreat,’ a Real-Life Risk Board

    JNS.org – “Risk: The Game of Strategic Conquest,” the classic Parker Brothers board game, requires imperial ambitions. Players imagine empires and are pitted against each other, vying for world domination. Amid this fictional world war, beginners learn fast that no matter the superiority of their army, every advance is a gamble determined by a roll of the dice. After a defeat, a player must retreat. Weighted reinforcement cards provide the only opportunity to reverse a player’s fortunes and resume the [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.