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December 15, 2011 - Image 9

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2011-12-15

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In Every Age...
A Hero Or Sage Came To Our Aid

there any Jews in Detroit?'"
Bolkosky stresses that the "differ-
ences" with Holocaust center officials
have been straightened out, and he's
working on future programs with
executive director Stephen Goldman
at the current Holocaust center in
Farmington Hills. The HMC has its
own oral testimony archive.

Praise From Survivor

The modest Bolkosky didn't mention
that he's on a first-name basis with
Wiesel and other international Jewish
leaders who revere his work.
"God bless Sidney Bolkosky,"
exclaims Abe Pasternak, 87, of
Southfield, a survivor of three German
concentration camps. "If it wouldn't be
for him, many people wouldn't know
what the Nazis did to us in those
camps. If not for him, the stories of at
least 300 survivors wouldn't be known
to the public."
Pasternak, who lost his parents
and a brother in the camps, then
was liberated by the Russians, was
one of the first to give testimony in
the UM-Dearborn archive, and now
helps translate other testimonies into
English from Yiddish, Hebrew and
several European languages.
Pasternak is one of about 8,000 sur-
vivors who came to the Detroit area
after the war, "and, of course, that total
has diminished greatly over the years,"
says Bolkosky.
"Many of them are my good friends
now. We visit each other's homes, go
out to dinner together, and keep dis-
cussing the war and the Holocaust.
"It's very sad; a very overwhelm-
ing experience. I often come home
completely depressed from their testi-
monies. It's amazing to hear what they
went through, and I don't know how
they cope with it now.
"They tell me they're pretty nor-
mal during the day, but they often go
crazy at night with dreams of what
happened to them. Their resilience is
inspiring."
The average survivor testimony
for the archive is about one to three
hours, "but one man spoke for 23
hours over a few days — and never
repeated himself," says Bolkosky.
"We're focusing now on survivors
who were hidden children during the
Holocaust (mostly those protected by
non-Jews)."

Help From Skype

Bolkosky often visits survivors,
including those in Israel and Europe,
to audio-tape their testimonies before
they come to the archive for filmed
testimony. They sometimes are even
filmed on Skype, the Internet chat
device. Viewers can get about half of

the 300 testimonies on the Internet;
the archive's website is:
holocaust.umd.umich.edu . It has
received more than a million hits so
far.
Movie producer-director Steven
Spielberg often boasts he has the
largest archive of survivor oral testi-
monies, "but we feel that ours is the
best and most authentic," says Jamie
Wraight of Ypsilanti, who is curator
of the UM-Dearborn archive. "It's
a case of quality over quantity. The
survivors who come to us seem more
intense and factual. We get to know
them pretty well; they're generous
and fun to be with."
Wraight cites Bolkosky's friendly,
low-key approach as a big factor in
getting survivors to participate in the
archive. "He has a wonderful, schol-
arly point of view that fits right in
with our work," said Wraight.
Bolkosky has won several awards
for his efforts and has written more
than 60 books, articles and essays
about the Holocaust. He received the
Jewish Federation of Metropolitan
Detroit's Benard L. Maas Prize for
"enriching our Jewish life and com-
munity through his creative accom-
plishments."

Book Covers Germany

He describes his work on the archive
in his 1999 book, Voices, Visions and
Silence: Reflections on Listening to
Holocaust Survivors.
His extensive studies and research
on Germany led to his 1975 book,
The Distorted Image: German-Jewish
Perceptions of Germans and Germany,
1920-1935.
"It's somewhat ironic that Hitler
began atrocities against German
Jews when he became chancellor in
the early 1930s:' ponders Bolkosky,
"because I feel that the German Jews
were more German than the non-
Jewish Germans."
Reminiscing about his speeches,
Bolkosky recalls a speaking engage-
ment years ago when an attendee
came up to him and asked to see his
horns. "I told him I have a good bar-
ber," Bolkosky quipped.
In his retirement as a teacher, he
plans to spend more time with his
family: his wife, Lori, an accountant
and former teacher; his son, Gabe,
an accomplished classical violinist;
his daughter, Miriam, a cellist with
the Boston Pops Orchestra; and two
grandchildren. Bolkosky belongs to
Congregation B'nai Moshe in West
Bloomfield.
But he'll continue his work at the
archive with Holocaust survivors. "All
in all," he reflects, "it has been just a
good thing to do."

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Mark a Lebow, Chairman of the Board
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Dr. John J. Mames Chapter - Michigan Region
248-353-0434

armdil@aol.com
www.afmda.org

Piease remember AFMDA when considering
your end of year charitable contributions

December 15 • 2011

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