May 25, 2024
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Claims Conference Launches Int’l Holocaust Survivor Speakers Bureau

(Courtesy of The Claims Conference) The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference) has launched the Survivor Speakers Bureau (SSB), a vast program of over 250 Holocaust survivors willing and able to tell their critical stories to students around the world, including 26 in New Jersey, 75 in New York and three in Connecticut.

Gideon Taylor, president of the Claims Conference, said, “At a moment of dramatically rising antisemitism, this program tells the history and educates for the future. A Holocaust survivor speakers bureau of this scale and reach is unprecedented. Holocaust stories remain as important as ever, for both ends of the generational spectrum. Survivors continue to feel the enormous need to share their harrowing stories, and, encouragingly, schools continue to want to fill their rooms with living, eyewitness testimony.”

Greg Schneider, executive vice president of the Claims Conference, said, “It is more important than ever that every student in every school, regardless of where they are, have the opportunity to hear directly from the Holocaust survivors who are still with us. First-hand accounts are essential to maintaining Holocaust memory and go much further to ensure people understand the impact of bigotry, antisemitism, and unchecked hatred.”

Holocaust survivor Hanne Holsten, in the United States, said, “It is one thing to read about the Holocaust in a textbook, a few paragraphs about the global politics of World War II and the history of Europe. It is another thing altogether to sit with someone who was deported from their hometown, stripped of everything they own, made to live in hiding or to endure a concentration camp. If speaking directly with the few remaining survivors makes an impact for even one person, I am more than willing to participate.”

The SSB connects Holocaust survivors with students both virtually and in-person. There are many schools in countries that do not have access to survivors. In order to provide these experiences to both survivors and schools regardless of location, the option for virtual presentations is critical for a successful speakers bureau with truly global reach and will ensure first-hand testimony is accessible even in communities that have perhaps never had the opportunity to hear a survivor share their story.

Holocaust survivor Eva Szepsi, in Germany, said, “Holocaust education is crucial, especially given the current events happening around the world. My goal in sharing my own story of survival is and has always been to show the human impact, not just of the Holocaust, but of all the racist and hateful actions being taken in the world. If hearing my testimony helps one person understand that they too have a role in the events happening in their community, and they can stand up for what is right, then I feel it is worth it for me to go remember and share those terrible stories.”

Since its founding in 1951, the Claims Conference has been dedicated to securing a measure of justice for Jewish survivors of the Holocaust. As a result of ongoing negotiations with the German government, the German government has paid more than $90 billion in indemnification to individuals for suffering and losses resulting from persecution by the Nazis. Just as important, the Claims Conference has secured increasing funding for Holocaust education as the need and desire for sustainable Holocaust education has been proven globally.

To request a survivor speaker, a school or social group must register their institution on the bureau’s website: www.claimscon.org/Speakers. Once registered, they can fill out an event request. The Claims Conference considers each request before connecting institutions or groups with survivors.

For more information, please visit: www.claimscon.org

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