April 14, 2024
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April 14, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

On the left, the FOX 5 cameraman, on the right, Brian Marcus and Kerry Drew, the FOX5 producer.

During the interview at “Names Not Numbers.”

From page 100 of “Still Here,” autographed by Brian Marcus, the photographer and publisher.

At the beginning of “My Stories,” I mentioned that it was my grandson Ari who in 2004 induced me to put my Holocaust experience in writing, arguing that after I am gone, my story would be gone with me. I took his advice at the time and my book has now expanded to cover more than 110 pages. Although so much has been written, the nucleus, and what got me started, is my experience in Germany during the early years of the Holocaust, 1933 to 1941.

It is now 12 years after I started writing, and I am still writing and speaking.

But the reader knows that—having suffered and struggled through pages and pages to come to this point.

I want to give a short overview of what has happened since I started telling my story over the years.

It was years prior to my first return visit to Frankfurt in 2003 that I had been corresponding with a gentile teacher in Frankfurt, Benjamin Ortmeyer. This teacher had formed an organization, years earlier, to publicize the fight against anti-Semitism and anti-gypsies. He had published a number of books on the subject. He was now collecting stories from former Jewish students who had lived in and escaped from schools in Frankfurt. He also included my story, although in a much-abbreviated form. The book was originally written in German and subsequently translated into English. That was the first time my story was told to anyone other than my family.

In June 1996 I was invited by the Yale University Holocaust Center to record my Holocaust story for their archives. Rutgers University had a movie studio and Yale had an arrangement with them to make the recordings for them. That was the first recording of my story.

I do not recall when I first spoke in a school to students, but since it was at Moriah School in Englewood, it must have been when one or more of my grandchildren were students there, which would be in the early 1980s. Since then I have spoken scores of times in schools in New Jersey, both Jewish and non-Jewish, hotels during my Yom Tov stay there, and in social clubs and shuls both here and abroad. As I had mentioned previously, the reason why I accepted the invitation from the city of Frankfurt in 2003 and again in 2005 was my ability to make arrangement to speak to students and teachers in non-Jewish schools there.

Recently I participated in a program called “Names Not Numbers” and was interviewed by five students at the Westchester Yeshiva Day School. It was professionally filmed and a few months later shown at a dinner given by the school. That program is ongoing in many schools.

A few years ago, I was contacted by a well-known New York photographer, Brian Marcus, who had received my name from the Holocaust Center in Manhattan, asking whether I would be willing to come to the museum to have my picture taken for use in a book that would be published by him. Since we were also offered to receive a picture to be taken by him of Dorothy and myself, we agreed. Until early last year we heard nothing since the shoot until we were invited to a cocktail party in New York for the first presentation of the newly published book, “Still Here.” Dorothy and I went and I saw for the first time the product of the photo session from years ago. I appear on page 100 with a quotation that I guess I must have given the photographer at the time. I bought several copies and had the photographer autograph them for me. The book contains many photos of Holocaust survivors and rescuers, each with a quotation from the individual.

Several months later we received another invitation from Brian for a dinner party (obviously a fundraiser for the charity that will receive all the profits from the sale of the books). Dorothy and I went, and while we were there Brian asked me to appear with him at a filming session by TV Channel FOX5 to promote the book. I agreed. (Why not?) I had never been on TV, and no doubt never will have the opportunity again.

A date was fixed for the recording and it took place in Brian’s own photography studio in midtown Manhattan. A crew from FOX5 set everything up and a pretty young lady by the name of Kerry Drew did the interviewing. I answered a few questions and she kept telling me to keep on talking. Consequently, I was able to tell my entire Holocaust story. I had never timed myself but when asked always said that it is around 40 minutes. As I learned later when we were able to obtain a copy of the recording, it was 42 minutes.

We had been given to understand that excerpts from the filming, including from two other survivors, would be about four to five minutes. We would eventually be notified of the date and time so we could watch it. The wait was longer than what had originally been indicated, and then we were given to understand that the airing would be longer than the originally indicated few minutes. When finally we were able to watch (it aired on Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) April 24, 2017, it ran for 16 minutes, and although there were two other survivors, I had the lion’s share.

So now, dear reader, you can tell everybody that you heard the story of a famous television personality.

(To be continued next week)

By Norbert Strauss

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