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May 05, 2005 - Image 32

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2005-05-05

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Survivors' Legacy

Donation to Berkley High School
to fund Holocaust education.




Riva Baker and friend
Steven Gershman

More Yom HaShoah
stories can be found
in Arts & Life —
pages 54-58.

Holocaust survivor's estate
will fund a program that will
teach Berkley High School
students about World War II and the
Holocaust beginning next year.
The $10,000 donation will fund an
elective course offered to 68 upper-
grade students who will learn about
the Holocaust through the eyes of
Riva and Erwin Baker, two survivors
who settled in Oak Park.
"I think it's an incredibly generous
gift to the students at Berkley High
School," said Principal Derrick Lopez.
"History is best told through individ-
ual stories. The fact that this couple
actually lived in the Berkley commu-
nity and actually lived this experience
— our youngsters will be able to relate
to that."

The Bakers grew up in neighboring
shtetls (villages) in the Ukraine, mar-
ried in 1939 and survived by hiding
from the Nazis in barns and, at one
time, living in a covered ditch in the
forest. After the war, with no other
family survivors, Erwin's uncles in
Detroit brought them here.
When Erwin died 25 years ago,
Steven Gershman of Oak Park cared for
Riva, who came from the same shtetl
(village) as his father. "She became like a
second mother to me," he said.
When Riva died in September
2004, she left her estate to Gershman,
who decided to keep her family's name
alive through charitable causes.
Gershman approached his friend
Lyle Wolberg of Berkley who chairs
the Berkley Educational Foundation,
which funds Berkley school programs
cut due to budget restraints.
They approached the Berkley school

district with the idea.
Part of the donation will fund a trip
to the U.S. Holocaust Museum in
Washington, D.C., to educate the
teachers, and another $1,000-$2,000
will also provide annual transportation
costs for Berkley's freshmen class to
tour the Holocaust Memorial Center
(HMC) in Farmington Hills as part of
the school's U.S. History curriculum,
said Wolberg. "Every single freshman
will go through a weeklong program
that culminates at the HMC."
Donations in the Baker name have
also funded programs to Jewish Family
Service, Jewish Home and Aging
Services, University of Michigan-
Dearborn Voice Vision Project and the
"She didn't leave a fortune, but
it's my responsibility to fund these
worthwhile programs," Gershman

Survivor Stories

Books by local Holocaust survivors share hopes and reflections.


Staff Writer


wo local Holocaust survivors
have penned books in time
for Yom HaShoah:

When Hope Prevails: The Personal
Triumph of a Holocaust Survivor (First
Page Publications, $18.95) by Sam
Offen; and Passport to Life:
Autobiographical Reflections on the
Holocaust (Forensic Press, $19.95) by
Dr. Emanuel Tanay.
Offen, of West Bloomfield, decided
to write the book at the urging of the
hundreds of students in schools and
the Holocaust Memorial Center
(HMC) in Farmington Hills who lis-
tened to his harrowing tale.
"It was extremely difficult to write
and to relive my experiences," said
Offen who wrote the book in long

5/ 5


hand. "I knew it
wasn't going to be
easy, but I wanted
leave a legacy for
my fatnily."
The book details
the five concentra-
tion and labor
camps he served in
and the 50 family
members who per-
ished; but "the
book is also very
optimistic," he said, citing that only
one-third of it deals with the
He recounts the happy home life
before the Nazis, the survival of his
two brothers and his discovery of
American relatives who help him
settle in Detroit. The book ends
with his reunion with one of the

American soldiers who liberated
When Hope Prevails is ,in limit-
ed release, available only at the
HMC. All proceeds will go to
the HMC, he said.
Passport to Life takes the sur-
vivor autobiographical format a
step further. Dr. Tanay, of Ann
Arbor, a clinical
professor of
psychiatry at
Wayne State
medical school
in Detroit,
helped his
mother, little
sister and child-
hood sweet-
heart survive
war. He

witnessed the Warsaw ghetto uprising,
shared a cell with Jewish freedom
fighters and was in Budapest at the
same time Raoul Wallenberg was
"I made more consequential deci-
sions between the ages of 14 and 17
than in the following 50 years," he
'As a young boy, I always said if I
survive, I will write a book," he said.
"My wife said the day I published my
book was a second liberation."
He has been writing the book for
about 30 years and the longer version
is on his computer and more than
900 pages long.
"Survivors live on two levels: on
what's happening now, and there's
always an echo of the past," said Dr.
Tanay, who has treated hundreds of
survivors. "Something happens, and it

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