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April 10, 2014 - Image 12

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2014-04-10

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From Germany
To Jewish Detroit

A young volunteer's remarkable journey to our Holocaust Memorial Center.

Vivian Henoch

Visiting Cafe Europa at the Oak Park JCC,
Richard Bachmann, center, enjoys conversations
with good friends Esther Lupyan, a Holocaust
survivor from Minsk, Russia, and Dr. Charles
Silow, the director of Program for Holocaust
Survivors and Families at Jewish Senior Life.

Special to the Jewish News


gainst the backdrop of subur-
ban traffic along Orchard Lake
Road in Farmington Hills, the
building looms: imposing and haunting, if
not an intentionally provocative presence.
Through its doors, millions of visitors have
come to learn, to reflect, to remember, to
share stories that forever change lives. This
is the Holocaust Memorial Center Zekelman
Family Campus.
The last thing you might expect in a visit
to the Holocaust Center is to meet a young
volunteer with a German accent

"Hello, my name is Richard Bachmann.. .
"You may ask what I'm doing here. I am a
volunteer at the museum for one year through
the Service for Peace program of the German
organization, Action Reconciliation Service
for Peace."
We take a breath and take in Richard's
words of introduction, noting first his impec-
cable English, then his handsome face and
earnest smile ... and we see that even in a
museum, history comes down to personal
stories. And those stories can take unex-
pected turns, both large and small.
Richard is often called upon to meet
visitors and speak to groups of schoolchil-
dren at the Holocaust Center, as well as in
the community. He is one of 180 Action
Reconciliation Service for Peace (ARSP) vol-
unteers working around the world, including
22 currently here in the United States.
"In German, the name of our organization
is Action — Sign of Atonement — Service
for Peace — which has a distinctly different
ring to it than the official English name
Richard explains. "For over 50 years, ARSP
has been the organizing instrument for
young people from Germany ready to volun-
teer in countries and communities that have
been harmed by Nazi Germany, especially by
the Holocaust.
"Since 1968, in the wake of the Civil Rights
Movement, ARSP has sent more than 700
volunteers to the U.S. to support organiza-
tions pushing for social justice and to work
with the Jewish community, the elderly or
socially disadvantaged in projects undertak-
en by museums, shelters, community centers
and schools:'
At 26, Richard is a graduate of the
University of Leipzig, working on his master's

■ ?",-- A\\\,

degree in American studies. On staff at the
museum through August, Richard assists with
research, writing text and organizing events.
In addition to working at the Holocaust
Center, he visits Holocaust survivors and their
families once a month at Cafe Europa, a pro-
gram at Fleischman Residence and the JCC in
Oak Park organized by Jewish Senior Life.
It seems that Richard's work in the com-
munity must be as challenging as it is
rewarding. As he chats with museum direc-
tor Stephen Goldman, it takes no time to see
how well-suited Richard is to his role as an
ambassador of goodwill in the community.
Personable and thoughtful, he is candid in
sharing his family background, his personal
experience and motivation to do voluntary
service in the Jewish community.
As Goldman says, "With Richard's experi-
ence — and the depth of his thinking — we
couldn't have asked for a more knowledge-
able and proactive fellow from the ARSP

A Personal History
Richard speaks with the voice of a historian
as he describes growing up in a countryside

Richard Bachmann, ARSP volunteer at
the Holocaust Center

town in the East German state of Saxony, 30
miles from Leipzig. "I've always considered
my home state beautiful; he says, "but there
was and still is a visible and active neo-Nazi
movement there. I grew up with the realiza-
tion that the violence and hatred of the past
was not as far away as some people wished
and believed it to be.
"Despite ardent efforts by the German
government, organizations and individuals

aimed to educate citizens on the crimes of
Nazi Germany, despite mandatory Holocaust
education in school and despite trips to the
memorials at former concentration camps,
certain elements of Nazi ideology have man-
aged to survive:"
Choosing to go to the University of
Leipzig, one of Germany's oldest and most
prestigious schools, Richard says, "I was
`lazy' — a typical kid. It was a good school,
close to home and all my friends were there:'
Two years into college, looking for more
meaningful work during the summer,
Richard applied for the summer camp
program organized by ARSP and spent two
weeks working and studying in Terezin in
the Czech Republic at the site of the former
Theresienstadt ghetto and concentration
Inspired by the cultural exchange of stu-
dents in the ARSP program and the experi-
ence overall, Richard encouraged his young-
er sister, Theresa, to apply for a fellowship as
well. She joined the program immediately
following her graduation from high school
and spent a year as an ARSP volunteer at the
Holocaust Center Pittsburgh.

From Germany on page 14


April 10 • 2014

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