Inspired to act by family history: Jedd and Ben

Ben and Jedd share stories of their own family members’ experiences of the Holocaust. 

Ben and Jedd are high school students from New York. It is an honour for us British students to be collaborating with them to make this a trans-Atlantic project. Ben and Jedd share our passion for raising awareness of the Holocaust and other genocides.

Jedd

My grandfather, Abraham Frydman (right), and great uncle Louis Frydman (left), at my grandfather’s wedding.

I come from a family that is deeply affected by the events of the Holocaust. Many members of my family perished but my grandfather and great uncle survived.

In 1939, the Nazi persecution of Jewish people began in Poland, and by 1942 my family was placed in the Warsaw Ghetto. When the Ghetto was liquidated, my great grandfather was tragically killed and my grandfather, great uncle and great grandmother were sent to Majdanek for selection. During this process, my great grandmother was killed, leaving my then teenage grandfather and great uncle as orphans.

The brothers were then sent to different camps and were fortunate enough to be able to stay together. As the U.S forces were coming to stop the Nazis in 1945 and rescue the victims of the Holocaust, my grandfather and great uncle, along with the other victims of the concentration camp they were in, were sent on a death march. During this march, my great uncle tragically fell ill and could no longer continue on foot. After staying together throughout the Holocaust, my grandfather and great uncle thought that they would never see each other again. Once my grandfather and his brother were separated, the soldier leading the death march ordered his guards not to shoot.

My great uncle was then able to rest and revive and continue the march. As to not let the Nazi regime take anything else from him, my great uncle went town to town searching for his brother and miraculously found him. They reconnected, were put in an orphanage, and decided to go to America together.

They arrived in Ellis Island as orphaned teenagers with only the clothes on their backs. Although both my grandfather and great uncle are no longer alive, they both had beautiful families and made successful careers for themselves. My great uncle went on to become a professor and get his doctorate and my grandfather became a successful lawyer.

Since learning about what my family went through during the Holocaust, I have felt a personal connection to fighting any form of hate today, most notably antisemitism. I am passionate about working with groups that aim to fight antisemitism both at home, here in the United States, and abroad. Currently, I am interning with an organization that fights antisemitism by educating both children and adults on how to fight back against hate against the Jewish people. As a third-generation Holocaust survivor, it is my responsibility to partake in internships like the aforementioned one and stand up against all forms of hatred.

We live in a society where people have many avenues to spread hate; hate has most recently manifested itself over social media, where people are able to coward behind screens while incessantly posting and spreading harmful pictures and speech. I know that it is my civic duty as the grandson of a Holocaust survivor and as a citizen to stand up against hate in all forms and act for what is right; I know this is what my grandfather would not only wish from me, but insist on to ensure that others never face the atrocities that our family once endured.

Ben

Many members of my family were murdered during the Holocaust, including my great grandmother’s cousins, the Albins, who decided to stay in Dzuryn, Poland, a small village in which they had settled. Innocent Jewish families in Dzuryn were brutally murdered during a bloody massacre in 1943. Even Dr. Samuel Albin, a physician born in 1886 in Bazaar, Poland, was murdered, his skills forever lost. Maryla Albin, a girl who was only 15 years old, was murdered during this massacre in addition to the majority of her family in Chortkov, Poland. Prior to World War II, more than 10,000 Jews lived in Chortkov, and there were fewer than 100 who survived. As a result of this connection to the Holocaust, my family has always reminded me of the importance of learning about genocide and encour- aged me to honour the victims and survivors by not only remembering them, but also meeting them.

I had the pleasure of interviewing the late Doctor Moshe Avital, a Holocaust Survivor, who was incredibly kind and generous with his time and who visited my class in middle school to share his story. Dr. Avital was born in Bilke, a village in eastern Czechoslovakia, and during the Holocaust, he and his family were deported to Auschwitz. From there, Dr. Avital was transferred to five concentration camps and survived the death march from Buchenwald along with Ellie Wiesel only for his ship, the Children of Buchenwald, to be captured by the British Navy. Finally, the Jewish prisoners were liberated by the Haganah. After all of this torture and hardship, Dr. Avital fought for the Haganah and in Israel’s War for Independence. Later, he wrote ten books regarding his experiences, Jewish heroism during World War II, and commentaries on the Bible and de- voted much of his life to education.

As Dr. Avital told his story, I could not understand or even imagine the heinous acts he described. Dr. Avital spoke to me for over an hour in detail about his ordeal, and what resonated with me the most was how excited he was to show me a picture of his head hanging out of the window on a train on his way to a concentration camp. He explained to me how rare it was for any survivors to have a picture of themselves with their families as they had no belongings. This small and subtle fact that carries so much emotion is something that could be obtained only from meeting survivors in person.

This early exposure to the Holocaust piqued my interest in learning about other genocides. Though the dates of each genocide are imperative to a historical timeline, I am more interested in telling survivors’ stories that deserve to be heard by everyone.

A joint message from British and American students:

‘After the horrors of the Holocaust were revealed the world said ‘Never Again’. Sadly, this promise was not to be realised…as genocides occurred not ‘never again’ but again, again and again. As students on both sides of the Atlantic we are fortunate to learn in excellent schools. However, we know that awareness of genocide is very low amongst young people in Britain and in America. The pressures of time mean that it is rare for genocides to be taught in classrooms whether they be in London or New York. Therefore, we, as students in Britain and America, believe that it is up to us to raise awareness. It is up to us to educate ourselves, to learn about genocide and to make sure that it is our generation that makes sure that ‘Never Again’ becomes a reality.’

 

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