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Belle Millo, Editor “Voices of Winnipeg Holocaust Survivors.” All photos by Rhonda Prepes.


Eli Herscovitch’s Band Yiddish Memories and Singer Jane Enkin


Renee Kaplan, Coordinator, at the Asper Campus for Human Rights and Holocaust Studies and Gustavo Rymberg, graphic designer for the book.

 


OVER 200 BOOKS SOLD AT LAUNCH OF “VOICES OF WINNIPEG HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS”

By Rhonda J. Prepes, P. Eng.

Over 300 people packed into the Berney Theatre and overflow seating in the Jewish Heritage Centre’s Holocaust auditorium for the official book launch of “Voices of Winnipeg Holocaust Survivors” on, April 15, 2010. The crowd, filled with many Holocaust survivors and their families bought over 200 copies of the book following the launch.

Eli Herscovitch’s band, with Herscovitch on saxophone, Ariel Posen on the acoustic guitar and Jeff Presslaff on the piano, played an introductory musical rendition, after four members of the General Monash Branch Royal Canadian Legion brought in the Canadian and Israeli flags.

Shelley Faintuch, Community Relations Director for the Jewish Federation here, introduced the many VIP’s in the audience, and noted that the survivors of the Holocaust are “true heroes” because in the face of danger and adversity, “they displayed courage and the will for self-sacrifice.”

“They left the familiar land of their birth, travelled to an unknown land, worked hard, persisted, and provided for their families in Winnipeg,” Faintuch said.

Greetings from Steven Fletcher, MP (Charleswood – St. James Assiniboia) Minister of State (Democratic Reform), were read to the audience.

Anita Neville, Liberal Member of Parliament for Winnipeg South Centre, said that she was “pleased, privileged and proud” to be present at the book launch.

Neville stated, “I am here to acknowledge the extraordinary efforts on the part of the Holocaust survivors and on the part of those who published this book and made it happen.”

She spoke of her recent trip to Poland as part of a group from Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre.  She said this trip, where she saw the concentration camps and heard the stories about them, “changed my life forever.”

She spoke of one poignant moment, where her group stood near where train loads of Jews were taken to death camps. “One of our group started to sing “Hatikvah” (the Israeli national anthem) and I will never forget that moment for all of my life,” Neville said.

Flor Marcelino, Manitoba Minister of Culture, Heritage and Tourism, and Minister Responsible for Multiculturalism, gave greetings. She noted that she learned about the Holocaust by reading the Diary of Anne Frank and watching the movie Schindler’s List. She spoke of Manitoba’s shared commitment of vigilance against violations of Human Rights, and the promotion of respect for fellow citizens regardless of culture, religion and race.

Zentner referred to Millo as a “talented writer, and editor,” who invested over a year and a half of her time without any remuneration to the project of compiling and editing seventy three stories of Winnipeg Holocaust survivors, including that of her own mother and father with ongoing devotion and commitment.  

“For her perseverance, for her strong determination, and above all for her selfless dedication, we are forever grateful. From our hearts, Belle, we thank you so much,” said Zentner.

The audience gave Millo a standing ovation for her efforts. Millo addressed that audience, and spoke of her parents’ experiences in the Holocaust, as a large screen projected the faces of the survivors and their families.

Millo’s mother endured the Lodz ghetto and two concentration camps. Her father, who was in the Polish army, was taken prisoner and sent from camp to camp. Millo noted that “my mother and father met in Canada and rebuilt their lives”, but “their memories and nightmares haunted them all their days.”

Millo added, “I am therefore defined by my parents’ memories of what they went through in the Holocaust. Who I am as a person and what I have done and do will always reflect our family’s personal history. I have always been inspired by their courage to survive such adversity.”

Millo also said, “In the Voices of Winnipeg Holocaust Survivors, the memories of over seventy survivors before, during and after the Holocaust [are told] - their stories of a world lost, families lost or decimated, of courage, of bravery, and of pain. I am so honored to have been able to help preserve their stories, their photos, and indeed their memories, so that the world that was lost will never be forgotten.”

Millo thanked The Ministry of Education, Citizenship and Youth for distributing the book to all 450 senior years schools in the province of Manitoba. The study of the Holocaust is part of the grade nine curriculum and now students will have access to a book to learn about the experiences of local survivors.

Millo thanked Gustavo Rymberg who designed the cover and layout of the book. She also thanked the financiers of the book including survivors themselves, the Jewish Foundation [ to learn more about the work of the Jewish Foundation, go to www.jewishfoundation.org], the Claims Conference, and other “generous members” of the community, spearheaded by the efforts of Joe and Ruth Riesen.

Millo read “David’s Story” an excerpt from the testimony of the late Dov and Jeannette Perlov. It is the story of the loss of their little boy to the brutal and pitiless Nazi monsters.

The book launch concluded with a special musical performance by Eli Herscovitch and his band Yiddish Memories, including singer Jane Enkin. They played an original composition written in honour of the survivors consisting of a medley of Yiddish songs first written in the ghettos and concentration camps.

Morris Kirshner who turns 90 years old in May told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that he was excited to be at the launch. “I am happy to have my story recorded in this book. I have not seen the book yet, but I have to buy a whole bunch of them. One for my nephew in Israel, my other nephew in Philadelphia, my daughter in Calgary, my son in Australia, my other son in Ontario, and my other daughter in Florida. I won’t be able to carry them all home this evening,” Kirshner said.

Debbie (Szternfeld) Lipkin and Hilda (Szternfeld) Smith who provided their parents’ stories for inclusion into the book said, “Our father Mendel Szternfeld passed away in 1976 and our mother Rachel passed away in 2005. We did not want their stories to be forgotten. With assistance from writer Sharon Chisvin we were able to document everything that we remember our parents saying about their experiences.”  Smith travelled from her home in Calgary to Winnipeg specifically to attend this event.

Alfred Heidinger, another contributor to the book told the Winnipeg Jewish Review, “I usually don’t say anything about my experiences in the Holocaust, but I figured I had a good story to tell so I put it in writing. For a simple man like me, it’s good to have my story published in the book. This way more people will be able to learn about what really happened in the Holocaust, and that is better for everyone. I consider myself very lucky to have survived and to be able to share my story.”

The book is a publication of the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada and is available for purchase by contacting them at 477-7460 or Millo herself at [email protected].  All proceeds from the sale of the book will be directed towards Holocaust education and the digitization of survivor audio and video test

 
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