A handful of Queensborough Community College students gathered with Holocaust survivors Tuesday to look back on the experiences they shared while interviewing and preserving the survivors’ stories for generations to come.
Arthur Flug, executive director of the Harriet and Kenneth Kupferberg Holocaust Resource Center and Archives, told the 11 students that their internship did not end with the fall semester — instead it would continue with them throughout their lives.
“This internship is going on as long as you go on,” he said. “The biggest fear [of survivors] is not getting old and dying. They fear their stories will be forgotten. Your internship is like an insurance policy.”
The students began the semester learning about the Holocaust through speeches, readings and videos and were then trained on how to interview a survivor.
Some of the students were shocked by the stories they heard and said the lessons they learned in history books could not compare to the visceral emotions of the firsthand tales.
Danielle Del Priore, 19, said Ethel Katz was only 20 years old when her entire family was killed.
“I can’t imagine what that’s like,” she said, and thanked the survivor for sharing her story. “I’ll never forget it. I’ll tell my children and my grandchildren because this story should never be forgotten.”
Katz, who has participated in the program for seven years, reiterated the importance of repeating survivors’ stories.
“You have to tell them about one of the greatest crimes committed in human history,” she said. “You have to remember that there are not that many survivors left. Don’t forget you will have to fight the deniers. It’s a big job.”
State Assemblymen Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) and Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside) and City Councilman Peter Koo (R-Flushing) were on hand to congratulate the students, as well as representatives from Councilman Mark Weprin’s (D-Oakland Gardens) and Assemblywoman Grace Meng’s (D-Flushing) offices.
“These students have done tremendous and important work,” Lancman said. “We have to ensure that firsthand accounts of the horrors of the Holocaust are documented today so they cannot be forgotten or contradicted in the future.”
Several students became emotional while recounting their survivors’ stories, and while some focused on the stark contrasts between their lives, others noted the similarities.
Joshua Oladiti, a Nigerian native, has been living in the United States for three years, separated from his family.
“I came from a family of eight. My sister died at the age of 25,” he said.
Oladiti said he could identify with the anti-Semitism Rosie Liebman experienced.
“I tried to put myself in her shoes. What would I have done? When she spoke, she reminded me of my mom.”
Liebman said she was ambivalent about sharing her story — that is, until she realized how much she shared in common with Oladiti, a Catholic persecuted for his beliefs in a Muslim country.
“I felt very at ease telling my story to him,” she said.
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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