June 17, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
June 17, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

NNJ Holocaust Education Center Presents Hidden Children Testimonies

A virtual event, hosted by the Northern New Jersey Holocaust Memorial and Education Center (the Center) in conjunction with the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect last Sunday evening, brought together three Holocaust survivors who had been hidden children to share their experiences.

According to Steve Fox, co-chair representing the Center, the Township of Teaneck has given its approval to install a Holocaust memorial on the Teaneck municipal green. As a prelude to Sunday’s program, Fox noted that the Holocaust memorial will be built on the green alongside a memorial to enslaved Africans, creating a “Garden to Nurture Human Understanding.”

The event opened with introductory remarks by Fox and Dr. Dennis Klein, educational director of the Center. Klein is also a professor of history, and director of the master of arts in Holocaust and genocide studies program at Kean University.

“What are the lessons of the Shoah?” Klein asked. Survivor Felice Stokes of Teaneck responded: “Be patient with us. It is very hard to explain; we were just children.” Survivor Evelyne “Evi” Juliet Blaikie added: “Until the conference in 1991, we [were considered] as having nothing to say. We were in limbo.” Prior to the first International Conference for the Hidden Child in 1991, the hidden children of the Holocaust were not widely regarded as survivors.

Stokes explained that even some of the older survivors had invalidated the experiences of the children by implying that “you were too young to remember; you have no idea what happened.” But the testimony of Stokes and Blaikie, in tandem with survivor Hans Gesell of Englewood, indeed provided poignant testimony that negated that assumption. Although they said that as children they could perhaps not yet comprehend the magnitude of the situation, the panelists recalled and were able to describe their impressions perceived through the eyes of a child, although understood differently and articulated later as adults.

The annual conferences for hidden children of the Holocaust awakened the voices of many hidden children. Blaikie started penning her childhood memories after the first conference. She was later inspired to share her story, eventually resulting in her recently published book “Magda’s Daughter: A Hidden Child’s Journey Home.” The book has been available on Amazon, but is currently sold out.

The topical theme “Survival to Resilience” was addressed by Klein following the testimonies of each panelist. Klein asked each of them to describe what they thought enabled their resilience, their ability to move forward in life and create a new pathway of meaning and productivity for themselves. Blaikie asserted: “It started with anger, advanced to defiance, and [transformed] to becoming a zealot. Jews make it!”

In a prior conversation with The Jewish Link, Fox noted that they are currently fundraising to build the centerpiece for the memorial. Then they plan to run a national design competition to determine the final centerpiece concept. In the next phase of development, a high-tech memorial wall is planned where community members may dedicate a brick or stone honoring those who survived or were lost during the Shoah. Another state-of-the-art feature will be a reading rail, an additional high-tech component for the educational aspect of the Center.

The Center continues to apply for grants, but the capital campaign needs a great deal of community support to transform these plans into reality. You are invited to help propel the projects by joining to build the centerpiece memorial, the memorial wall and the reading rail. To donate or review the Center’s video clips visit www.nnjholocaustmemorial.org.

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles