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January 20, 2005 - Image 26

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2005-01-20

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Oral history project, PBS documentary drive home
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olocaust education is effective
when survivors' personal expe-
riences are told and retained
for future generations.
That's the message a crowd of about
175 persons heard Sunday night during
a panel discussion after a special private
screening of a new Public Broadcasting
System miniseries, Auschwitz: Inside the
Nazi State.
The documentary commemorates the
60th anniversary on Jan. 27 of the
Soviet army's liberation of the German's
death and labor camp.

Cohn-Haddow Center for Judaic Studies, Near Eastern and
Asian Studies, and the Center for the Study of Citizenship

The Fate of the

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Auschwitz survivor Abe Pasternak of
Southfield found the PBS documentary
"hard to watch."

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Significantly, the event was held at the
University of Michigan-Dearborn,
where oral histories of Holocaust sur-
vivors have been recorded for more than
20 years. The collection of about 250
videotapes, has gained a national reputa-
The audience consisted mostly of
Holocaust survivors, their family mem-
bers and others who want to ensure that
the deaths of millions of Jews and oth-
ers during World War II aren't forgot-

One Auschwitz survivor, Abe
Pasternak, 80, of Southfield found the
two-hour screening "hard to watch,"
but stressed that it is a "big help" in
teaching others.
Pasternak was 19 years old when he
and family members were taken from
their hometown in Hungary in May
1944, kept in an open field for weeks
and then loaded in boxcars three days
before arriving at Auschwitz in south-
west Poland.
Pasternak said watching the PBS
screening brought back "horrible mem-
ories" because he knew personally the
details reflected in the documentary —
its first installment premiered on local
PBS channels Wednesday night. The
following two installments are sched-
uled for 9-11 p.m. Jan. 26 and Feb. 2.
In the PBS documentary, Polish Jews
and non-Jews were interviewed — as
well as several SS members who admit-
ted they had no feelings about murder-
ing large numbers of Jews.
Pasternak added that the PBS pro-
gram and the oral interviews made
under U-M-Dearborn's Voice-Vision
Holocaust Survivor History Archive
program "fulfills a legacy" for survivors
who can tell their stories and have the
videotapes and transcripts available for
the future.
U-M-Dearborn History Professor
Sidney Bolkosky, who initiated the pro-
gram in the early 1980s, "encouraged us
to tell our stories," Pasternak said.
Jennifer White, station manager for
Michigan TV, the university's PBS affili-
ate, echoed his comments.
White was in the audience; she had
taken Dr. Bolkosky's 'Aspects of the
Holocaust" class at the Dearborn cam-
pus six years ago.
"That experience gave me the respon-
sibility to make sure this discussion
[about the Holocaust] doesn't end here
and that people won't forget," she said.
When she learned from the national
PBS office that the BBC program was
ready for broadcasting, she didn't have
any hesitation in supporting it.

Personal Stories Have Impact

During the question-and-answer session

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