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New York lawyer and Jewish community leader Menachem Z. Rosensaft traces his activism back to his roots. Born in the Displaced Persons camp in Bergen-Belsen, Germany, to parents who survived the Holocaust, he has taken the lessons of his family’s experience with him through four terms on the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, his presidency of Park Avenue Synagogue in Manhattan, his teaching about the law of genocide at the law schools of Columbia and Cornell Universities, and his career as an international litigator, culminating in his current role as General Counsel and Associate Executive Vice President of the World Jewish Congress.

Rosensaft has become a leading voice among children of Holocaust survivors, founding the International Network of Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and authoring and editing several books, including most recently Poems Born in Bergen-Belsen, published in 2021 by Kelsay Books.

Rosensaft and Ellen Bachner Greenberg, founder of Descendants of Holocaust Survivors (2G Greater New York), discuss Rosensaft’s life and legacy and the questions he faces today. This program is co-presented by the Museum of Jewish Heritage and Descendants of Holocaust Survivors.

Watch the program below.

 

This program’s original recording transcript is below. This transcription was created automatically during a live program so may contain inaccurate transcriptions of some words.

Joshua Mack: Great we'll get going Hello everyone i'm Joshua Mack i'm the Vice President for marketing at the Museum of Jewish heritage living memorial to the Holocaust.

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Joshua Mack: it's a pleasure to welcome you to today's program the mannequins fee rosen soft and Ellen barkin or greenberg as many of you know, not as prominent member of the second generation and a leading voice in the global community of those committed to Holocaust remembrance and education.

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Joshua Mack: As long list of accomplishments includes being a member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council serving as general counsel and associate executive Vice President.

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Joshua Mack: World Jewish Congress founding the international network of children of Jewish Holocaust survivors and teaching about the law of genocide at the law schools of Columbia and cornell university's minot can we thank you for being with us today to discuss your life's work, thank you.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Having me.

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Joshua Mack: pleasure monogamous in conversation this evening with Ellen barkin greenberg another second generation leader and the co founder of descendants of Holocaust survivors, along with Eva fogleman.

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Joshua Mack: descendants of Holocaust survivors, which is co presenting this evening's discussion is a New York based group with Members who hail from all over the USA Europe in Israel.

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Joshua Mack: is a place for children of survivors to connect with each other to share thoughts feelings and memories and to learn and teach about the legacy of the Holocaust and thank you for your partnership.

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Joshua Mack: Everyone in attendance should feel free to share questions in the zoom QA box throughout monogamy and ellen's conversation and they'll get to as many as they can towards the end of the hour, without further ado welcome Ellen and feel free to get started.

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Ellen Greenberg: priscilla josh and the museum, thank you very much, both even I appreciate all that you do and your partnership with us.

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Ellen Greenberg: And the program tonight some an awesome great to see you again.

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and

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Ellen Greenberg: let's let's start off with.

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Ellen Greenberg: Talking about your parents and their past I know both of your parents hadassah and Joseph survive both ashes and Bergen belsen, so why don't you tell us a little bit about their story.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Well, let me start with my mother, my mother was a dentist studying medicine in France before the war and became a dental surgeon returned to her hometown of Soviet Soviet in Poland married had a child.

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Menachem Rosensaft: In August of 1943.

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Menachem Rosensaft: My mother her parents her first husband her five and a half year old son.

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Menachem Rosensaft: and her sister arrived at Auschwitz Birkenau.

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Menachem Rosensaft: All but my mother and her sister were sent directly to the gas chambers.

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Menachem Rosensaft: My mother, because she was a dentist and was.

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Menachem Rosensaft: assigned to work in the infirmary in America now and the women's camp and while there according to women who were there not my mother who didn't speak about it much.

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Menachem Rosensaft: She saved the lives of countless women by performing rudimentary surgeries getting them out even still with high fevers from the infirmary ahead of selections by assess doctors and otherwise.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Saving saving many lives.

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Ellen Greenberg: That I just don't think that would that wasn't the only heroic.

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Ellen Greenberg: thing that she did right.

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Ellen Greenberg: wonderful thing for these children, so I.

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Menachem Rosensaft: know that.

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Menachem Rosensaft: In November in November of 1944 she was sent to Bergen belsen where she and a group of other women inmates.

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Menachem Rosensaft: kept 149 children hundred 49 Jewish children alive in what was known as a kindle Haim a children's home in Bergen belsen despite a brutal cold winter and in raging typhus epidemic so that was.

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Menachem Rosensaft: So, by the time of liberation my mother had quite a reputation of.

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Menachem Rosensaft: being one of the heroines in terms of though the tree came in contact with.

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Menachem Rosensaft: My father meanwhile.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Was.

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Menachem Rosensaft: deported to Auschwitz several time from his hometown of Benjamin also in Poland escaped several times, one from a train on its way to Auschwitz by diving.

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Menachem Rosensaft: out into the out of the window into the visceral river and getting shot at and having three bullets hit him one grading of forehead one is arm and a third remained in his leg until he died.

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Menachem Rosensaft: A second time he escaped from a Labor camp, to which he had been assigned, and was in hiding, for several weeks with a friend of his what recaptured.

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Menachem Rosensaft: sent back to our shirtwaist spend over six months in the desk block in the notorious a block 11 and then was sent from there in November of 44.

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Menachem Rosensaft: To a sub camp or both involve london's out from there to Dora middlebrow, which was the camp where the V2 rockets were constructed, under the direction of that later to be great American hero verner von braun and.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Then arrived in Bergen belsen about.

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Menachem Rosensaft: 10 days or so before the liberation and after the war, after the liberation my mother.

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Menachem Rosensaft: was asked by the British to have a team of.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Few doctors and other nurses, very few of them were trained nurses to work alongside the British to try and save as many of the survivors as possible.

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Menachem Rosensaft: In the two months following the liberation 14,000 more Jews died of illness and malnutrition, my father meanwhile emerge, right after the liberation, as the.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Central leading figure among the Jewish displaced persons and they wouldn't called in Bergen belsen in the displaced person camp with Bergen belsen.

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Menachem Rosensaft: The survivors were moved from the concentration camp to a German military base about a kilometer away, which became the largest displaced persons camp in.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Germany and my father had both the Jewish committee that administered the dp camp and the central committee of liberated truth in the British zone of Germany from 1945 right after the liberation until 19 5051 when the dp camp was closed down.

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Ellen Greenberg: i'm going to jump in here before we get too far away Menachem in addition to all the many things he he does in his spare time he writes poems and there's a poetry book that was just released released last month and so someone awesome you you wrote a poem.

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Ellen Greenberg: entitled some 13 at Auschwitz so i'm sure if you'd like to read that for us.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Well, yes, but let me put it a little bit in context because.

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Menachem Rosensaft: We are all familiar with some 23 it's.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Often recited at funerals it talks about the Lord is my shepherd I shall not want he leads me through green pastures, and still waters and set a table in in front of my enemies anointed my head with oil and.

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Menachem Rosensaft: I shall not fear, because I will be in our own eyes how forever well.

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Menachem Rosensaft: How does one reconcile that with our streets Bergen belsen the horrors of the show.

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Menachem Rosensaft: And so my.

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Menachem Rosensaft: response my reaction is this long.

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Menachem Rosensaft: A sound to the emptiness no shepherd only falls know festive festive table only bitter soup moldy bread no Green pastures know still waters.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Only blood drenched rat infested modern he is always hungry she is always cold they had anointed by blow shadows walking through the valley of death, I don't live fog wrapped house forever.

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Ellen Greenberg: Well, thank you that that is that is certainly a contrast to the the soothing some 23 that often recited it deathbeds.

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Ellen Greenberg: So the war ends there there's liberation and your parents are living in Bergen belsen dp camp where you were born.

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Ellen Greenberg: or any of us are born children survivors were born in the shadows of the Holocaust, you were born at the place of the Holocaust.

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Ellen Greenberg: Now I believe you only live there for a couple years and you were you were young and then you went on to Switzerland and came to the US at about 10 years old.

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Ellen Greenberg: So, in what ways, do you may not remember much of Bergen belsen but maybe some of it stays with you, and what, how do you think that shaped you and also coming to the US as a refugee.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Well, though the two separate questions.

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Menachem Rosensaft: On the one side, I have no memories of Bergen belsen whatsoever as a child, the only the only thing I know is what I was told by my parents and in fact I knew about the dp cam long before I knew about the horrors that preceded it and.

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Menachem Rosensaft: What you have to remember about the dp camp Bergen belsen, in particular, but others is that they were cocoon where the survivors were able to return to life.

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Menachem Rosensaft: And in the dp camp they recreate the survivors in Bergen belsen under my father leadership create recreated the world that they had known before the war to the best of their abilities.

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Menachem Rosensaft: So Bergen belsen, for instance, had it complement of schools high school your shavers and newspaper to theatre companies sports club political political organizations Zine from Zionist to Buddhist.

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Menachem Rosensaft: It.

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Menachem Rosensaft: It had publications and so.

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Menachem Rosensaft: The dp camps actually for many of the survivors were a period of quite positive transition back to life, especially because they were surrounded having lost most of their families, they were surrounded by others, to whom they did not have.

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Menachem Rosensaft: To explain them saying if they had nightmares the next person understood what the what the nightmare were from and.

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Menachem Rosensaft: So to that extent Bergen belsen was for me, at least in retrospect, a very positive part of my heritage and it made it easier for me to reconcile with the horror that preceded it, because I.

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Menachem Rosensaft: knew.

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Menachem Rosensaft: sort of intuitively that.

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Menachem Rosensaft: There was an aftermath it didn't end without it, it didn't end there, there was a period that follows.

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Menachem Rosensaft: The second part.

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Menachem Rosensaft: of coming to the United States.

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Menachem Rosensaft: at the age of 10 it was less as a refugees and as an immigrant.

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Menachem Rosensaft: And we, you know we were.

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Menachem Rosensaft: quite well established here fairly fairly quickly, my father had quite a number of friends both survivors and others from the Jewish political world, and what I remember and Helen you probably remember it as well, is that for most of that period, the Holocaust wasn't spoken about.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Absolutely when when we grew up, I mean it's not like today, when you learn about it, you read about it it's part of the discussion.

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Menachem Rosensaft: The only people who talked about the Holocaust at all were a few survivors, and the only ones who are really interested in listening with other survivors.

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Menachem Rosensaft: or those are the kids who were interested, so that, to a large extent it's not that the survivors were necessarily silent about the experiences.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Is that they were not at that period, in time, encouraged to speak right the end that also true of the American Jewish community and of the Israeli community.

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Menachem Rosensaft: They didn't want to hear about it, it was like it was not part of anything that they wanted to know, maybe, out of a sense of guilt, maybe.

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Menachem Rosensaft: A degree of condescension to survive, to the survivors of how could you allow yourself to be led and so forth.

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Ellen Greenberg: i'm going to just share, I mean I you hit on something that I, I really can relate to, I did not grow up amongst other survivors.

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Ellen Greenberg: We were basically the only survivors in the area and all my parents friends who are American born and I distinctly remember my parents had friends over for dinner party.

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Ellen Greenberg: And it was not surprising that the conversation turned to the Holocaust might my father talked about the Holocaust and then i'm upstairs and I hear the the American born friends asking well why didn't you leave.

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Ellen Greenberg: Not knowing it, nobody would take them why didn't you fight back why didn't you.

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Ellen Greenberg: All these kinds of questions without any understanding, so it was really not spoken about, and in this case, when it was it was it was rather than insulting.

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Ellen Greenberg: And then I remember this distinct mark like at the end of the 1970s, I know that my father was involved with you know Elie Wiesel and Ben meet in in gathering or the Warsaw ghetto Oregon is as.

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Ellen Greenberg: Walker is a while grow right and and starting to commemorations and banding together and at the same time, there was a group of children.

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Ellen Greenberg: Who children of survivors who band together, including you, and Helen Epstein and Eva fogleman who were recent guests of ours here, and all of a sudden, there were these groups and camaraderie about talking about the Holocaust and.

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Ellen Greenberg: So, and when you started these these discussions in these groups, what did you set out to do was.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Actually, I am I came to it a couple of years later than others.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Right, because at that point, I was studying I.

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Menachem Rosensaft: was in a PhD program at Columbia in modern European history, then I moved to law school and was already I was doing some writing about the Holocaust and such but not that deeply involved with the.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Second Generation movement until a conference took place in 1979.

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Menachem Rosensaft: which was a conference.

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Menachem Rosensaft: or international conference on children of Holocaust survivors, it was the.

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Menachem Rosensaft: And the title was rather indicative that the second day was fine because the second day was commemorative with, I think, Michael berenbaum participating and, of course, Eva and Helen and others, and that was more about children of survivors talking but the first day was.

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Menachem Rosensaft: psychologist after psychiatrist after mental health specialist after social worker basically giving learned papers about what was wrong with us.

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Menachem Rosensaft: And why we were traumatized and what was the problem and, by the way they were perfectly honest about their work be cut, but it was a little bit problematic because.

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Menachem Rosensaft: The best thing the best comparison, I can give is if, like somebody taking a sample group of alcoholics anonymous and then taking that as indicative of the drinking pattern of the population as a whole.

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Menachem Rosensaft: These psychiatrists and psychologists were reacting to those children of survivors who had come to them for help.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Which is fine, but what it ignored was a vast body of others, and at that point, I and a few of my friend who at that conference, and you know what.

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Menachem Rosensaft: We don't recognize ourselves in this depiction and if people are going to be talking about us, we want to be in charge of the dialogue we want to control it.

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Menachem Rosensaft: And we have other issues, political, social, cultural, which are our priorities and we don't want to spend our time just sitting around talking to ourselves about ourselves, and so an evil was a key part of.

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Menachem Rosensaft: That development that lurch in 1981 into the first World gathering of Holocaust survivors in Jerusalem right then that led to the founding of the international network.

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Ellen Greenberg: You know it originally started off as a way for children of survivors to share their unique and similar stories with one another, and now I see all these years later that.

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Ellen Greenberg: Children of survivors are getting involved with Holocaust Remembrance in education, taking on the responsibility of telling their their fathers stories and their parents stories and.

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Ellen Greenberg: I just want to read something from in 1981 these are remarks made by Ben me at the 38th commemoration of the Warsaw ghetto uprising.

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Ellen Greenberg: And it's it's it's a pleat Holocaust survivors always wanted their stories told and the world to remember, so these these are part of his remarks.

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Ellen Greenberg: Since our liberation, we have tried to teach the world to get it to listen, the uniforms, the photographs the ruins of the death camps.

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Ellen Greenberg: The numbers tattooed on our forearms horrible as they are, or for only a glimpse of that shoe horrors of those terrible times we have tried to show them to the world, sometimes.

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Ellen Greenberg: witnesses are dying and with them the memories, the names and faces of the family's gone before their legacy can be truly transmitted to the next generation.

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Ellen Greenberg: Perhaps now we can still tell humanity never to forgive never to forget and never to let such destruction happen again, so that that that those are been meads words on behalf of the survivors and their plea so 40 years later, how do you think we did.

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Menachem Rosensaft: um depends on who we is.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Look.

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Menachem Rosensaft: The international community.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Has.

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Menachem Rosensaft: demonstrated that it really hasn't learned a hell of a lot from the Holocaust.

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Menachem Rosensaft: The expectation after 1945 was not only that anti semitism was dead and that no one would ever want to be identified with it again because of the dissociation with the Nazis, something we know now is not true under the resurgence of anti semitism, that is frightening but also.

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Menachem Rosensaft: No one saw that.

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Menachem Rosensaft: A genocide would be allowed to happen again well.

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Menachem Rosensaft: You had Rwanda, you had Bosnia Sabra nizza you have you have the disease, you had Dar for you have the Rohingya today in Myanmar.

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Menachem Rosensaft: In other words, the international community has demonstrated that it is not about to put its neck on the line to stop genocide to stop crimes against humanity, and I have to say that the second generation somewhat disproportionately is involved in social action in.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Efforts to prevent the Holocaust engage in not just Holocaust Remembrance but genocide commemoration on a broader scale, and I think it's to their credit to their to our credit, but the other part of it is.

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Menachem Rosensaft: As you what you mentioned, it is now our obligation to continue our parents work, not because we have a monopoly on Holocaust memory, we don't.

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Menachem Rosensaft: It belongs to the Jewish people and society of the whole However, while we do not have the any of the privileges of survivors, because we were not survivors, we did not.

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Ellen Greenberg: We are witnesses to the witness.

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Menachem Rosensaft: We are witnesses to the witnesses that's correct and we have the obligation to take our parents memories and carry them into the future.

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Menachem Rosensaft: And let me give you a very quick example My mother died in October 1997 shortly after a couple of hours after the Russia shawna that year.

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Menachem Rosensaft: my daughter our daughter, who was God, who was at that point, a sophomore in college was very close to my mother and had spent many, many hours with her, she was always a babysitter of choice.

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Menachem Rosensaft: And about six months later, I was in Poland with working the honor foundation at the time, so I took her to Poland, for the first time.

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Menachem Rosensaft: We weren't weren't Warsaw, then we went to a crock of then we went to Auschwitz, one which I showed her around, and then we went to America now where the grey dismal day grizzly a perfect day for the atmosphere of America now it's.

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Ellen Greenberg: Only supposed to be like that is.

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Menachem Rosensaft: never saw.

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Ellen Greenberg: The sunny there.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Right and we were walking together and silent past the barracks and at one point God says to me, you know it exactly the way DASA, which is what we call my mother hadassah it's exactly the way DASA described it, and then I realized that a transfer a memory had taken place my daughter.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Born decades after the Holocaust recognized the barrel of Birkenau through the memories that she had heard and absorbed from my mother and it is now part of her consciousness that she will pass on to her children, and I think that's part of our obligation.

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Ellen Greenberg: And, and you know, perhaps that obligation doesn't have to be limited to just a sentence or even to just Jewish people.

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Ellen Greenberg: When I spoke recently at a school through zoom in Florida about my father's story and I knew that 80% of them were immigrants their parents had no education.

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Ellen Greenberg: And I tried to focus on something that they could hold on to them my father came here didn't speak English went to night school got a ged to try and give them hope and and telling the story.

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Ellen Greenberg: A witness to witness to witness maybe it's not just our responsibility maybes everybody's responsibility to hold on to and tell the story.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Absolutely, but the but the point is that we have an obligation.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Yes, which is separate and apart because we, we have a kind of intuitive relationship with the with a topic that is not learned from books and there's a lot not learned from.

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Menachem Rosensaft: yeah from listening to a lecture right and and, by the way, you're absolutely right, it has a huge impact.

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Menachem Rosensaft: A daughter of survivors and is the director of the Holocaust and genocide Museum in Johannesburg and after the Rwanda genocide she went to Rwanda.

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Menachem Rosensaft: And was comforting and talking to the survivors, and it was the first time that they of course learned that there had been something, such as the Holocaust and.

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Menachem Rosensaft: It was eye opening for them to realize that on a continent far away decades earlier whites had done to other whites what the.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Hutus had done to the tootsies and in a way, as my friend really tell that it gave them not comfort, but a sense of not being all that alone in the world, this wasn't something that had happened only to them right.

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Ellen Greenberg: You know, historically, when survivors got up and told their stories.

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Ellen Greenberg: And books were written and it was about the heart, everything that went wrong and that's the that that's important to know it's important to know the history to try and understand what happened.

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Ellen Greenberg: um I also see a shift here where stories of survivors, or about resilience about strength in in their lives, how they survived and how they went on on afterwards, and I think that's very important.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Absolutely, I mean, first of all to go back to a comment that you made when the people asking.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Rather insensitive and.

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Menachem Rosensaft: ignorant question why didn't you fight back well.

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Menachem Rosensaft: I maintain that every single Jew, who helped another drew who was teaching a child in a ghetto, despite to be taught them to read.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Who in a in the camp was human to someone else who shared some food who remained human who told a joke in America at night or sang a song or just comforted one another, that was resistance that was fighting back.

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Ellen Greenberg: And then i'll take it one step further, when you have when you live in an altered universe, where the goal is to kill you anybody who wanted to live, even for a day wanting to live was fighting back.

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Menachem Rosensaft: yep correct and that's absolutely correct so that and the other part, is there was a tendency to some people that still is to view the survivors.

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Menachem Rosensaft: through the lens of barbed wire at liberation and concentration camp uniform staring out into the distance and what they don't understand is.

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Menachem Rosensaft: They had all of the victims and survivors had a life before the Holocaust and they rebuild a life for themselves, after and they have to be viewed, and we as their children and grandchildren, have to be viewed in that overall context.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Our parents lives and their activities and their values are far more a part of us, then the torture to which.

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Menachem Rosensaft: After the other subjective them.

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Ellen Greenberg: Absolutely, and that brings me to something else you know it's so important to to honor survivors and recognize their strength and determination.

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Ellen Greenberg: And both you and I are or on the advisory committee for Holocaust survivor Day, which is coming up on on June 24 and you know it's a date to honor them there are so many days of morning, where you say cottage and you talk about the victims, this is talking about their strength and.

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Ellen Greenberg: The museum and also descendants of survivors Holocaust survivors, my group and eva's group are also participating in that and we'll we'll send more information at it, as it gets closer on ways to get involved.

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Ellen Greenberg: And, and to celebrate the survivors which that they enjoy the club they deserve the covet.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Your absolutely but, but you know it also this remind me of something interesting for the survivors of Bergen belsen or the.

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Menachem Rosensaft: And they did not read, I mean yes yo ma sha wanted became instituted was important.

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Menachem Rosensaft: But, as my father, at one point said for him every day jamar show for the survivors every day of the week, they can find someone who died.

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Menachem Rosensaft: However, what they celebrated every year, and some of the children of survivors from the belton dp camps don't do today is a separate celebrated April 15, which was the day of the liberation.

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Ellen Greenberg: And the second verse.

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Menachem Rosensaft: The second birth and.

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Menachem Rosensaft: A day which for them had the positive connotation, it was the day when things started to go right when thing when there was at least some when hope.

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Menachem Rosensaft: became move from being an illusion to being something realistic when you all of a sudden had soldiers.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Who were walking around instead of beating and shooting and killing were saying you are free and sharing food and giving words of comfort and even you know British soldiers going up to them and saying in broken Yiddish if be naive and all of a sudden, they saw.

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Menachem Rosensaft: They saw the world in a different in a different context, and that is very important to read remember.

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Ellen Greenberg: Right absolutely So here we are in.

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Ellen Greenberg: And anti semitism.

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Ellen Greenberg: Is is in full force.

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Ellen Greenberg: You know I obviously this survivors.

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Ellen Greenberg: wanted to make sure there wasn't never, never any tragedies in the Holocaust again, but do you think that they expected anti semitism to be so alive and well, and living in 2021.

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Menachem Rosensaft: I don't think so I don't think any of us did, but I, I mean and it, by the way, was naive to expect otherwise because let's remember the old Nazis did not just disappear in 1945 they just went.

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Menachem Rosensaft: They didn't even go underground they just sort of put their ideology and the anti semitism their hatred for Jews on the backburner.

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Menachem Rosensaft: They couldn't say talk about it publicly, so they talked about it, probably at home to their children or two or to their friends.

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Menachem Rosensaft: And the same thing in other countries, look anti semitism wasn't a prerogative of Germans, it was in every country, whether it was France, whether it was Poland, whether it was hungry and it is no disrespect to those.

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Menachem Rosensaft: polls and Frenchman French nationals and others who rescued us and helped us to recognize that they were anti Semites there were those who.

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Menachem Rosensaft: If they didn't actively participate didn't particularly have a problem with Jews being removed from them as well, we are now 70 plus years later 76 years later.

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Menachem Rosensaft: hmm and the old taboos have gone and the.

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Menachem Rosensaft: The anti Semitic trope come back out, I mean it was your during the recent.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Israel Hamas conflict what was truly frightening and my organization, the World Jewish Congress issued a report on it.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Where the social media posting which were replete with such thing as Hitler was right.

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Menachem Rosensaft: All Jews, should have been gassed and all of a sudden, you have the.

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Menachem Rosensaft: A particular problem on Twitter, I mean to their to their credit Facebook and instagram try to remove them as quickly as they showed up but on Twitter these things were around for days and.

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Menachem Rosensaft: You know if that's if that's the language and that's becoming the legitimate.

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Menachem Rosensaft: discourse, it really is it really frightening I mean you're not there, the difference, by the way, just quickly is a huge difference between anyone having a political demonstration.

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Menachem Rosensaft: In support of Palestinian outside of an embassy, you can agree, you can disagree.

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Menachem Rosensaft: At legitimate political speech, but when you take that same demonstration and you hold it outside of a synagogue or you hold it outside of a Jewish Center and you start attacking Jews as drew.

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Menachem Rosensaft: that's anti semitism.

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Menachem Rosensaft: On steroids right.

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Ellen Greenberg: And it's almost like a perfect storm, you had all these pockets and things were swelling up for a couple years and.

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Ellen Greenberg: it's frightening.

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Menachem Rosensaft: it's absolutely frightening and, by the way, what what we also have to sort of remember.

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Menachem Rosensaft: That.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Yes, of anti semitism, but it's not in a vacuum.

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Menachem Rosensaft: You know you still you have those who accused the Jews, of being responsible for covert 19 and then you have.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Those who accuse everyone of Asian background to be responsible for covert 19 and then you have everyone attacking every possible immigrant or every possible refugee I mean we are getting to a sense of to an atmosphere of you know phobia in which anti Semitism is a cornerstone.

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Ellen Greenberg: it's it's it's really frightening because it has nothing to do, whether it's against the Jews or any of these other groups, it has nothing to do it's not based in any sort of truth.

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Ellen Greenberg: is based on rhetoric that just keeps getting repeated and repeated and if you repeat something often enough, it could become true so it's very hard to combat and fight, something that has no validity.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Well that's true and the other thing that we really have to remember is that the.

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Menachem Rosensaft: The, shall we say, the primitive mindset.

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Menachem Rosensaft: is very comfortable with a scapegoat.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Absolutely traditionally the end escape code to have the scapegoat, be the outsider the one who is different in Europe for centuries, it was the Jew responsible for the black plague responsible for capitalism responsible for socialism responsible for everything that went wrong.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Today, we are in company with other minorities, and you know let's put it this way white supremacists.

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Menachem Rosensaft: don't just dislike people of color they also dislike Jews and they dislike other groups, and that just the reality they're looking for a scapegoat, in order to.

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Menachem Rosensaft: justify their own often hate filled ideologies.

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Right.

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Ellen Greenberg: So let me, let me turn and weave in some of the questions from from the from the the the chats here.

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Ellen Greenberg: And thank you josh for helping me by sending me these these questions here.

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Ellen Greenberg: Alright, so i'm going off and in today's context.

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Ellen Greenberg: environments, whether in the US or elsewhere, what lessons, do you derive and what values, do you live by as a second generation and what can we do going forward.

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Menachem Rosensaft: well.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Number one who live by.

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Menachem Rosensaft: A value system to live by it and not compromise.

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Menachem Rosensaft: And he.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Certainly wants children one grandchildren those values which include being Jewish and by being Jewish it doesn't much matter whether you are an observant Jew orthodox conservative reform secular cultural, but you have a heritage, you have a culture with values.

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Menachem Rosensaft: uh huh live it and transmitted secondly.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Understand that in the world if we if we don't want.

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Menachem Rosensaft: If we don't want others to be indifferent to anti semitism and we don't want others to be indifferent to the Holocaust.

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Menachem Rosensaft: We cannot be indifferent when others are the targets of hatred and when others are the targets of genocide.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Which doesn't mean that we don't have a primary obligation, with respect to Holocaust remembrance and, of course, we have a primary responsibility to fight anti semitism, but it cannot be a mindset of that all we care about and if others are victims of bigotry and xenophobia.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Too bad not our problem, it is our problem because we're all interrelated absolutely.

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Ellen Greenberg: Thank you um Now I know that you were involved with the international network of Jewish children of Holocaust survivors, can you tell us about some of the political activities you initiated there.

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well.

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Menachem Rosensaft: We had any number.

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Menachem Rosensaft: The we had, I think the first city wide demonstration event, on behalf of Ethiopian jewelry in New York, that we organized on a.

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Menachem Rosensaft: somewhat larger scale we lead a demonstration protesting against President Reagan and Chancellor Cole going to Bergen belsen on their way to the bit Berg cemetery in 1985.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Where members of the roughness s were buried.

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Menachem Rosensaft: We were involved with a number of instances of.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Bringing Nazi war criminals to justice.

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Menachem Rosensaft: We were quite deeply involved in the fight together with the World Jewish Congress to expose former UN Secretary General Court Waldheim, as a former I actually have a Nazi and a liar and then of course we all, there was no one avenue, so that, for many of us.

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Menachem Rosensaft: The way we went about things were cultural Yiddish culture, the Yiddish music others were expressing themselves through art still others through poetry and literature, you have novelists like saying rosen bomb and melvin vocab.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Or, and so it's.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Our our goal was to provide a basis for children of survivors and our children grandchild of survivor to take our legacy and do something constructive with it.

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Menachem Rosensaft: And for those of us like myself who have a more social action orientation it in that direction, but it can be in any number of ways right.

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Ellen Greenberg: Speaking of your involvement it's easy to see i'm going to ask a question about your parents is easy to see where this came from.

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Ellen Greenberg: Tell us about your father coming to the US and 1948 to get the US Government to open up immigration for the Jewish refugees, and also about your mother who accompanied orphans to Palestine around the same time.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Well, actually, my father was here in 1945 he was brought here by the.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Joint distribution Committee, the American Jewish joint distribution committee to address the first united Jewish appeal conference after the war in Atlantic city and to report on the condition of the survivors, and that was in December 45 January 1946 and at that point, it was.

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Menachem Rosensaft: He was actually less.

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Menachem Rosensaft: forceful on the issue of getting the US to open its gates that was that he left to others his issue was and what was the mantra almost of the survivors to open the gates to Palestine, for the British to allow the survivors to get to Palestine.

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Menachem Rosensaft: And that involves holding speeches here and then going back being interviewed by the Anglo American Commission on Palestine.

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Menachem Rosensaft: And when an.

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Ellen Greenberg: actual action right.

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Menachem Rosensaft: And when asked well and he said, we want to go to Palestine, we all want to go to Palestine.

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Menachem Rosensaft: And when asked what if you're not able to my father's response was and again i'm quoting from a journalist who are there, then we will go back to Auschwitz Bergen belsen and how, and you will bear the responsibility for.

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Menachem Rosensaft: In the meantime, my mother in 1946.

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Menachem Rosensaft: escorted 1000 Jewish children.

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Menachem Rosensaft: orphaned.

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Menachem Rosensaft: to Palestine, they had gotten these.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Entry permits to go to Palestine, from the British Government outside the quarter and they were brought there and.

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Menachem Rosensaft: again.

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Menachem Rosensaft: What my mother was discovered was that there really was a disconnect between.

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Menachem Rosensaft: The children and what they had gone through and.

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Menachem Rosensaft: The.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Jews living in Palestine who were going on with their own issue which was serious and their own lives and we're not all that.

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Menachem Rosensaft: sensitive to what these children had gone through and remember these were children as opposed to adults, they did not have a prior basis, and one of the things my mother did at the time.

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Menachem Rosensaft: There were efforts made between the various Israeli or Zionist political parties.

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Menachem Rosensaft: to divide the children to have some taken on this keyboard some taken on that keyboard and it became a kind of a lottery in the in the children.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Especially they were about 100 and something children from Bergen belsen who are absolutely petrified because they didn't have parents all they had with their friends.

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Menachem Rosensaft: And they were about to be ripped apart, so my mother insisted and prevailed, that the children were in fact divided among three kibbutzim.

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Menachem Rosensaft: so that they could remain together and all the end they could retain their the core of friends with whom they had been together for the past year year and a half, some even in the camps and have them and not blue this support system.

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Okay.

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Ellen Greenberg: This is a question from a boy.

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Ellen Greenberg: he's wondering about the name of the town that your mother was from So if you could just say it again so wait.

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Menachem Rosensaft: My mother, I mean the Polish name was us know via it's it's editor was self self motivated and.

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Ellen Greenberg: Oh sister okay.

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Menachem Rosensaft: and which also became the German name of it because it wasn't a part of Poland that was actually in next by the third right, so it was.

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Menachem Rosensaft: It became for some years, a German town.

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Ellen Greenberg: Okay, so as an answer to your question No, it is not the same town is your mother.

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Ellen Greenberg: You know, Malcolm i'm just realizing we didn't touch on your teaching at the law, schools, at both Columbia and cornell university's you teach the law of genocide.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Correct it's a what.

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Menachem Rosensaft: It it places what has happened since 1945 and context, on the one hand effort to.

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Menachem Rosensaft: prevent Holocaust genocide from happening again, which first manifests itself in the Nuremberg Trial and other trials and the adoption of the Genocide Convention.

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Menachem Rosensaft: And then attempt to deal with the problem in subsequent indiscipline decades and the Genocide Convention itself, its purpose is to prevent and punish genocide well.

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Menachem Rosensaft: As an international society we've done a an adequate job bb plus let's say punishment, we know how to do that, we know how to put people on trial.

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Menachem Rosensaft: As I said before, we have failed abysmally and prevent it.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Right, and I think it's important for.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Young lawyers who are getting involved in international public law and and human rights law.

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Menachem Rosensaft: To be grounded in the history of how we got there, none of this, you know we sort of take for granted, we have a Genocide Convention, we have a declaration of human rights, we have all of that question, what do we do with it and how did we get here.

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Ellen Greenberg: Is teaching about the the the the Nazi Holocaust is is that a big part of the classes.

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Menachem Rosensaft: It well.

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Menachem Rosensaft: It is because it where the law of genocide and the law, the subsequent law originated that way it was rooted, I mean bear in mind the Nazis, the Germans did not invent the concept.

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Menachem Rosensaft: They had been.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Genocide they had been slaughtered of not national, ethnic, religious group going back to the beginning of history.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Including the Armenian at the beginning of the 20th century, including Native Americans at the hand of the US Government in the 19th century, and what became known as the charity trail of tears but.

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Menachem Rosensaft: It came that I mean the perfect storm and the vastness represented by the Holocaust.

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Menachem Rosensaft: was a focal point that led that led the international legal community to start trying to do something about it, which had never happened before.

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Menachem Rosensaft: And you've got crimes against humanity, for the first time, have a criminal court of action at the international military tribunal Nuremberg.

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Menachem Rosensaft: But So yes, that is an important part of the course, but we also go beyond two and I said forever needs and Bosnia, the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, what is happening today with our own Hinduism and also by the way, and a realization that.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Rape and sexual violence has now become an active tool in the perpetration of genocide, and it is becoming a.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Ever more important part of the of the curriculum in this respect right.

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Ellen Greenberg: i'm just mindful of the time, I know that you wanted to to include which I think would be a good time the poem that you wrote that the second generation.

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well.

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Menachem Rosensaft: it's a poem called night fragments.

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Menachem Rosensaft: And it perhaps expresses where we are in, on the.

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Menachem Rosensaft: In the context of past and future night fragments created in fire shadows, we are the last and the first.

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Menachem Rosensaft: The last to taste taste ashes from the curse centuries valley of unwilling passes through where God revealed his face to them along.

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Menachem Rosensaft: And the first transfixed by still burning yesterday's to reach beyond heaven and its cloud beyond crimson ghost illusion into ourselves imploding in search of memory.

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yeah.

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Ellen Greenberg: Right and.

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Ellen Greenberg: You know, for for you, a political activist, a lawyer it's almost in Congress to think of you as a poet, but, but your your poems really.

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Ellen Greenberg: speak very emotionally and speak to the point very well I I enjoy I have the book in and I enjoyed it.

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Ellen Greenberg: In wrapping up now i'm.

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Ellen Greenberg: Unfortunately there's some really great questions we didn't have time we we have a copy of the chat.

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Ellen Greenberg: We will reach out, I will reach out if there if, if I can answer any of them and answer your questions, I believe the information about the group that even I co founded descendants of Holocaust survivor is in there, please join us on Facebook, please come to our events.

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Ellen Greenberg: And josh the museum Thank you again.

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Joshua Mack: Really, thank you, Alan, thank you for leading us in such a terrific and meaningful conversation.

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Menachem Rosensaft: Thank you and thank you for, thank you for having me.

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inspirational.

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Joshua Mack: survivors and their descendants, are the bedrock of our Community at the Museum of Jewish heritage and you've helped us understand the second.

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Joshua Mack: generation more deeply this evening we've recorded this evenings program and we'll email with the recording to everyone in attendance, along with some suggested follow up resources, including a link.

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Joshua Mack: On deployment outcomes book of poetry stay posted for that email in your inbox and if you find our programs interesting, we hope that you'll support the museum to share it.

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Joshua Mack: via the link in the zoom chat which we may have not put up but that's Okay, you can find us and we'll also be adding you all to our mailing list if you're not already on it.

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Joshua Mack: Everything we do is made possible by the generosity of our Community members and if you're to tea or 3G or 4G and tenants it's evening you can get involved in the sense of Holocaust survivors the organization that Ellen and diva fogleman.

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Joshua Mack: founded and to thank you once again have a great evening everyone, thank you.

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Thank you enough.