In 1944, Hungarian physician’s assistant Olga Lengyel was deported to Auschwitz along with her parents, husband, and two sons. She was put to work in the Auschwitz infirmary, where she also secretly toiled for a French underground cell, helping to demolish a crematory oven. At the end of the war, she was the only member of her family to survive.
Lengyel made her way to New York and, in 1946, published Five Chimneys: A Woman Survivor’s True Story of Auschwitz, which became one of the earliest testimonies to depict the barbarism of the Nazis. Thirty years later, her vivid exposé of the death camps inspired William Styron’s award-winning novel Sophie’s Choice.
20 years after Lengyel’s death in April 2001, the Museum and The Olga Lengyel Institute explore her remarkable life and legacy. The program is moderated by Dr. Sara R. Horowitz, Professor of Comparative Literature and Jewish Studies at York University and an expert in women and the Holocaust, and features David A. Field, Chairman of the Institute’s Board of Directors; Nancy Fisher, Museum Trustee who conducted a four-hour interview with Lengyel in 1998 for the USC Shoah Foundation; and Robert Jan van Pelt, world-renowned scholar and Chief Curator of Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away.
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.
Ari Goldstein: I'm Ari Goldstein Senior Public programs producer at the Museum of Jewish heritage - A Living Memorial to the Holocaust and it's my pleasure to welcome you to today's program exploring the life and legacy of Olga Lengyel.
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Ari Goldstein: In 1944 when Gal, who is the physicians physicians assistant was deported from Hungary to Auschwitz, along with her parents husband and two sons.
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Ari Goldstein: She was put to work in the Auschwitz infirmary, for she also secretly toil for French underground cell helping to demolish crematory of it at the end of the war, she was the only member of her family to survive.
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Ari Goldstein: Organized made her way to New York and in 1946 she published five chimneys women survivors true story of Auschwitz, which became one of the earliest testimonies to depict the barbarism of the Nazis.
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Ari Goldstein: 30 years later, her vivid Expos a of the death camps inspired Williams sirens award winning novel sophie's choice.
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Ari Goldstein: All the passed away on April 15 2001 so today's program pays tribute to the 20th anniversary of her death coming up next week.
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Ari Goldstein: We have a wonderful group of panelists with us to explore her life and legacy today.
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Ari Goldstein: Dr Sarah Horowitz is professor of comparative literature in Jewish studies at York university and an expert in women in the Holocaust.
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Ari Goldstein: Dr Robert yon van pelt is a world renowned scholar and Auschwitz and chief curator of the exhibition Auschwitz, not long ago, not far away, which is on display here in New York until May 2 if you haven't seen yet.
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Ari Goldstein: David field is chairman of the board of directors at the Olga link i'll institute New York and Nancy Fisher is a longtime trustee of our museum who conducted a five hour interview with Olga and gail in 1998 for the usc Shoah foundation.
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Ari Goldstein: we're going to begin today's program with a brief video clip from nancy's interview with Olga in 1998.
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Ari Goldstein: Then we'll hear reflections from each of our speakers directly, followed by a panel discussion and Q amp a So if you have questions, please feel free to share them in the zoom chat at any time during the Program.
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Ari Goldstein: Without further ado, welcome to our panelists will play the video now and then Robert.
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After my father was faking it came to my children my mother.
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And they said the mother should be with me and the children will be taken to know that came.
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So I asked what kind of games, they said they are the children and old people take care of them.
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So I was thinking, and I know that will will be useful hard Labor and I wanted to save my mother, they are Labor.
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And I wanted that she should take care of the children, so I I asked the German kudo my mother go with the children.
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So the journey said Oh yes, yes, by all means, she should go I didn't know that I can then my mother, also for that, because the children and the.
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People going with the children were taken right away to the.
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I cannot leave myself from these moment.
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They were taken to death and each night to date, before I go asleep these pictures appear.
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And since that time, I have an insomnia, I sleep very little.
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and very Robert.
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Robert Jan van Pelt: Hello.
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Robert Jan van Pelt: i'm Robert F on belt, I hope you can hear me, and this is i'm speaking from Toronto and airy asked me to give some general reflections on on the situation in Auschwitz in 1944 and, in some way the the conditions under which the Hungarian truce arrived.
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Robert Jan van Pelt: I think I think it's important to remember that the Hungarian truce were relatively protected until.
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Robert Jan van Pelt: late March early April 1944 and and and but you tried to explain the reality on the ground of the Holocaust this, this is actually quite a remarkable.
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Robert Jan van Pelt: piece of the story that for all kinds of reasons that had to do with with with politics in in the outcomes and Central Europe, the position of the hearty government in Hungary account of political game that hearty and his governments played with Germany.
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Robert Jan van Pelt: That the Hungarians had been able to avoid deporting or be forced to the report to their own to to to Poland.
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Robert Jan van Pelt: Well, many other countries that were under the influence or that were occupied by Germany had not been able to do that, of course, it doesn't mean that juice.
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Robert Jan van Pelt: In 1940 4142 43 in hungry didn't have enormous problems, the did the stories of the Labor battalions the high mortality of us choose Labor battalions.
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Robert Jan van Pelt: shows that it wasn't good to be true in Hungary, at a time, but we're certainly better than being a true in Poland or in France.
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Robert Jan van Pelt: And so, this is one of the pieces I think it's very important to understand when all that talks.
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Robert Jan van Pelt: about her ignorance her her sense of guilt or sense of guilt of not knowing what to do when she arrived in nashville even when she talked for for at the beginning.
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Robert Jan van Pelt: of her memoir that she actually volunteered to go with her husband to Germany and take the children booster because it's all this was the proper thing to do, as as a wife.
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Robert Jan van Pelt: Of a of a doctor who or someone to go to Germany and they sold, he would have worked in the hospital and death in some way she didn't know she had them to didn't have the experience.
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Robert Jan van Pelt: As a Hungarian to that almost any Polish to would have had by 1940 or 41 where they knew very well you can't really trust Germans on this one, but in that part of Europe, where Olga live the Germans have had a reputation of being solid people have been cultured people.
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Robert Jan van Pelt: Certainly the northern Germans Russians had a reputation for being straightforward.
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Robert Jan van Pelt: To Hungarians, of course, had a lot of.
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Robert Jan van Pelt: Experience with Australia and and I think it's not.
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Robert Jan van Pelt: it's not wrong to say that it must prefer to those germs depressions dose which ultimately are the Germans from the German rise over the the Austrians, with whom they had a long and troubled relationship so an older.
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Robert Jan van Pelt: When basically when when when these transports leave Hungary, it is with a kind of expectation that they are going to a country that is civilized.
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Robert Jan van Pelt: They might be they might face hardships, but these were not will not be hardships that are impossible to negotiate.
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Robert Jan van Pelt: And, of course, on the other side, so there's a there's a kind of I would say, a pool from Germany, a sense that you go to a place even the blender rumors.
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Robert Jan van Pelt: rumors about what had happened to Poland and so on, but you're only were rumors, but of course the pool in that story was also the.
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Robert Jan van Pelt: The blatant cruelty and anti semitism, especially of the Hungarian gendarmes I think that one should not forget.
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Robert Jan van Pelt: That the scenes that happened to Budapest and other cities where Jews were arrested and put in the temporary gatos quite often the brick factories, they were confronted with a very violent.
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Robert Jan van Pelt: Anti semitism and, in some way when you're in the middle of that you have to see in this image of the Germans to as a more civilized people, then, then I can understand that that one been enters this transports was a certain kind of confidence that things will be better.
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Robert Jan van Pelt: Now this of course didn't happen in Auschwitz when the transports arrived in May and June over 435 450,000 sort of 1000 50,000.
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Robert Jan van Pelt: Hungarian Jews arrived in Auschwitz in that two months period, it was the time of the greatest influx of deportees into the camp.
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Robert Jan van Pelt: Their face of a situation for which they were wholly unprepared the whole idea of a selection, the whole idea that it would be gas chambers crematoria that 80% typically have a transport that arrived would be selected for immediate.
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Robert Jan van Pelt: murder in the four crematoria in in our show a beer beer can now and also bunker number two that had been brought back into operation to deal with the.
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Robert Jan van Pelt: The the the Hungarian transports, this was completely unimaginable and so if we listen to all got story about her arrival in Auschwitz and.
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Robert Jan van Pelt: The idea that there are going to be camps when situation will be better for her children.
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Robert Jan van Pelt: and also for her parents, for her mother because she's with her mother in one line her father has with her husband already come to the other line, I think that you have to realize that that that this was a.
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Robert Jan van Pelt: situation where a person could not have acted any differently if they used or breaks, of course, she had atrocious trucks a certainly in relationship to her mother her mother had stayed with her.
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Robert Jan van Pelt: She probably would not have survived at all, and as far as for children most concerned, she, of course, had no agency whatsoever to save them in that situation.
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Robert Jan van Pelt: Now my final remark, before I will give it over to Sarah Horowitz who's with me here in Toronto, but I think very close by and far away because we are again back in a total lockdown.
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Robert Jan van Pelt: But about the issue of agency, it is important that we will have this discussion when we talk about August decision or non decision we're advice to a mother on the hump in Auschwitz.
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Robert Jan van Pelt: That we do this, against the background of a discourse that has been executed 50 years old, about Jews arriving us lamb to the slaughter in Auschwitz or interrupt link our belts at sobibor.
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Robert Jan van Pelt: A narrative that that passage origin, not only in the in an Orthodox Jewish traditions, where, of course, the idea of the sanctification of god's name of dying in order to in order not to convert the choice to choose in earlier times have so that they would die as true.
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Robert Jan van Pelt: and which also invokes the idea of the of the lamb to the slaughter, we will go to the lamb of the slaughter but it's not a negative connotation it's a positive one, and when when it is done for the kids ocean.
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Robert Jan van Pelt: But de de de de de de de metaphor became network negative in the hands of, especially the scientists in the Warsaw ghetto.
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Robert Jan van Pelt: wiggle room for example, who says that that those who went to Treblinka went as lamb to the slaughter, but the Zionists the young people who possess this and, of course, this ends up in the uprising.
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Robert Jan van Pelt: I always believe that it is a highly unfair description of the situation in which the arriving deportees in any of these extermination camps for ourselves.
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Robert Jan van Pelt: Because they typically did not choose to go to us with they didn't have the information, even to choose anything.
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Robert Jan van Pelt: And that, if one wants to understand the internal mechanisms of of reasoning and of the dd the the willingness of people.
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Robert Jan van Pelt: in some way to accept her fact, in the case of Olga that is also accepting the fate of her husband.
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Robert Jan van Pelt: it's very good, I think, always to read what is one of my other favorite books in the history, geography of the Holocaust.
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Robert Jan van Pelt: imola courteousness fearlessness with also became the the the subject of a marvelous movie made in the beginning of this millennium.
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Robert Jan van Pelt: On the issue of what does it mean to embrace a fate in the middle of this catastrophe.
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Robert Jan van Pelt: And I I probably will would like to speak a little bit more about it later on in in our program because I think it does, it is relevant.
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Robert Jan van Pelt: To what Olga faces in Auschwitz, but at this moment, I think I better give it over to Sarah who I think we'll talk a little bit about the about her memoir as a memoir of a woman who goes through the experience of Auschwitz.
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Sara Horowitz: Great Thank you Robert jaan I always learned from you and it's so wonderful to see you.
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Sara Horowitz: Through the through the aegis of Museum in New York and we both live in Toronto.
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Sara Horowitz: I want to briefly address what it meant for a woman survivor of astronauts fair canal to publish a Member a memoir so soon after the war.
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Sara Horowitz: The French version French translation of the Hungarian manuscript in 1946 and then English translation in.
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Sara Horowitz: 1947 so in 1946 just for comparison, the American psychologist David boat or travel to Europe to interview survivors he taped his interviews with over 100 survivors and if you've listened to them today.
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Sara Horowitz: you're struck by two things number one the chaos of the moment survivors are in flux, they don't know who they would find where their family members were whether anybody survived.
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Sara Horowitz: Where they would live each survivor has hit or his or her own own experiences to contend with, and.
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Sara Horowitz: losses and are still trying to piece together the larger picture and, secondly, listening to the tapes are struck by the shock of the interviewer.
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Sara Horowitz: Who did not yet know what we today have learned from research and testimonies the thoroughness the brutality, the conditions of Nazi atrocity.
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Sara Horowitz: So August book published that same year that boater was conducting his interviews, one of the first accounts of a woman to be published and D, one of the first accounts period to be published it's really interesting to think about the tone of her memoir.
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Sara Horowitz: At least in so far as we hear it through these two translations is collect collected unsentimental you might even say.
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Sara Horowitz: there's a certain kind of confidence about what she has to describe, but at the same time, her life was still in flux, much like the people that boat or interview.
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Sara Horowitz: She had suffered profound losses two sons one biological one adopted a husband parents murdered by the Nazi death machinery.
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Sara Horowitz: Although she was victimized by the Nazi regime and without real options her memoir makes clear that she felt implicated in all of these deaths, she emerged alive.
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Sara Horowitz: But the strands of selfhood had been assaulted family, social stature culture nation and, like many of the people boulder spoke with her life afterwards was not yet determined.
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Sara Horowitz: The memoir though opens up questions that have become central to the way we understand women's experiences during the Holocaust, the kinds of stories.
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Sara Horowitz: That women come to tell about their experiences and the kind of stories they don't tell.
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Sara Horowitz: And the impact of those experiences over time, so, while Jewish men and women were both targets of Nazi genocide both wrapped it up humiliated tormented murdered.
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Sara Horowitz: There were differences in their experiences and I want to touch on a few of these because they emerge in reading orcas memoir first of all, there are vulnerabilities particular to women.
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Sara Horowitz: most notable of those are pregnancy, childbirth and caring for small children now these posts, a danger in a range of circumstances.
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Sara Horowitz: In ghettos in hiding and as oprah's memoir memoir demonstrates in concentration camps upon arrival women who were visibly pregnant women who had small children in tow more selected for death with their children or with their pregnancies.
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Sara Horowitz: And even women in hiding were faced with the question of.
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Sara Horowitz: How could they give birth quietly so as not to give away their location, how to keep small children quiet, while and hiding, but the selections in camps where the most devastating.
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Sara Horowitz: and women who are pregnant, if they could try to conceal their pregnancy and often as the pregnancy events this required the consent, the support the collaboration, if I can use that word of other women who would.
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Sara Horowitz: not reveal that secret women sometimes would recount tying their bodies their you know their torsos with rags to conceal the pregnancy and.
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Sara Horowitz: compassionate I use that word in such an advisor way midwives doctors who are also prisoners.
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Sara Horowitz: were determined to do what they could to keep these women alive, but what that entailed, was killing the newborns trying to deliver the women in secret, if possible, and.
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Sara Horowitz: finding ways to kill as quickly, I have to say as possible that newborn baby and if they could to do so out of the sideline of the mothers, so that they could tell the mother, that the child was stillborn and and Olga talks about the killing of newborn children, and it is a kind of.
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Sara Horowitz: demonstration of the inversion of a normal ethical values, normally, we would say that.
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Sara Horowitz: A midwife or somebody who delivers a baby and murders, a healthy baby would be really perverse but here women were faced with a choice.
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Sara Horowitz: Do you do you allow both the one the mother and the child and the baby to be killed or do you do, you can to see if you can preserve the life of the mother.
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Sara Horowitz: Also, women noted the effects of Camp conditions on their body like men they contended with thirst and hunger, but also menstruation early on.
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Sara Horowitz: Women menstruating maybe for a couple of months, and they had no no racks nothing to help them deal with menstrual flows, but soon enough they stopped menstruating because of the.
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Sara Horowitz: Because of the starvation conditions, but many of them did not understand why they didn't understand what was happening to their body and they presumed as Olga did immediately.
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Sara Horowitz: After the war during the war that some kind of chemical or medication had been introduced into their.
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Sara Horowitz: into their food into their soup that stop them from menstruating and after the war, many women worried, whether having survived with the effects of whatever it was.
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Sara Horowitz: Again, we now know, it was simply starvation, but what those would would it prevent them from being able to conceive and bear children afterwards, and we have accounts of women, talking about.
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Sara Horowitz: being played by plagued by a fear that they would not be able to bear children and being relieved when in fact on day or even.
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Sara Horowitz: People they knew who had been in the same concentration camp had children they saw it as a kind of evidence that perhaps damage to their body would not be permanent permanent one woman, I remember, said to me that she had a cluster of friends.
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Sara Horowitz: That state and lose touch after the war, people from the same Barack and she said when the first one from our group had a baby, we all heard about it, we were so happy meant maybe we weren't sterile maybe I could have a child to.
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Sara Horowitz: And, finally, to other issues that on August memoir touches on that research is only in the past decade or so began to expand upon in a meaningful way.
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Sara Horowitz: Is the issue of sexual border sexual assault sexual violation code first sexual encounters we begin to see the surface in belated testimonies and.
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Sara Horowitz: memoirs published much, much later stories that women suppressed for many years, because after the war, they said they wanted to move on with their lives, many of them wanted to marry after the war, and they felt that, if they told the stories of their own experiences.
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Sara Horowitz: It would damage their chances of getting married and and Olga talks about these instances of coercive sexual encounters in her memoir.
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Sara Horowitz: and also the killing of babies and CAP infanticide we begin to find people talking about them, not only is Olga does things that she saw but women talking about things that they themselves did so reading this memoir reminds us also the gender isn't something in isolation.
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Sara Horowitz: vocal angles narrative also has the imprint of her her assimilated educated family and the relative late to partake of Hungarian Jews and.
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Sara Horowitz: How her circumstances contributed to the choices, she made and the choices in fact that she was denied that she wasn't allowed to make we can talk all about this later, but right now, I want to hand the spotlight over to David.
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David Field: Thank you, Sarah Thank you very much and want to thank museum of Jewish heritage for hosting this webinar depicting the chairman of the board of directors of the old England Institute of our case studies, the human rights, an opportunity to speak to about Olga and our organization.
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David Field: Olga was born includes Transylvania in 1908 to a very comfortable and integrated Jewish family afford father was a major shareholder of Transylvania coma.
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David Field: For married age 16 to that the macos lingual was a surgeon who owned a hospital includes and his wife Olga became his surgical system.
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David Field: Now you've heard already, about the fact that Olga and family with according to Auschwitz, where everyone except Olga was massacred and.
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David Field: Let me tell you now what happened after.
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David Field: Olga find out of Auschwitz actually she escaped from out to achieve escape from it that much in that early 1945 and, at the end of the war, she wrote a memoir that the other speakers haven't gotten into.
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David Field: William styron the author of self which toys published in 1979 show you all remember the movie sophie's choice.
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David Field: city was there, who inspire the pie chimneys and indeed haunted by, particularly after he had met oprah and then he wrote his book now sophie's choice was a now.
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David Field: Five chimneys was an autobiographical memoir there are many differences Olga was Jewish so with that also lost her entire family, so we.
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David Field: Were impacted store in about Olga was a self incriminating for choosing to take her family with her to join her husband thinking, they were going to go to a field hospital in German.
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David Field: And when arriving in Auschwitz that a 12 year old son was younger than he was hoping it is being sent immediately to the gas chamber and not a lot of Labor camp as well, those children 12 years old and older.
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David Field: These with choices choices for which you have no responsibility for the consequence.
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David Field: Of the older came to the United States cheap on the memorial library and our collection and Second World War.
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David Field: Under those who died.
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David Field: During World War Two memorial library is a private foundation and a not for profit institution.
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David Field: In 1962 she purchased a five story, Mr Brown stone building at 58 feminized you can print park avenue and Madison avenue, in the name of the Memorial building, I have a couple of pictures here that i'd like show you, I hope that i'll be able to share the screen with you.
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David Field: Hopefully, hopefully, hopefully, let me turn okay.
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David Field: Is a is a picture of a portrait of yoga painted in 1975 79 sorry, which now hangs in the memorial library go.
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David Field: and
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David Field: Let me see I think i've got another picture here somewhere.
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David Field: By that.
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David Field: Okay.
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David Field: hey i'll.
00:28:40.260 --> 00:28:40.890
David Field: Get.
00:28:42.210 --> 00:28:46.500
David Field: back to what I was saying, and I find the picture of the building later on.
00:28:47.940 --> 00:29:04.980
David Field: I was August lawyer and help you with any legal problems that you had with building inserting the tenants, and the city of New York and my wife and I frequently had dinner with her, I met her number of times at the memorial library really when she died in.
00:29:07.140 --> 00:29:10.980
David Field: There you there you go there, thank you are a little picture of the building.
00:29:12.300 --> 00:29:14.100
David Field: When she died in 2001.
00:29:15.480 --> 00:29:22.020
David Field: She left the memorial library to me mark areas for financial consultant and Steve as a friend.
00:29:24.630 --> 00:29:30.840
David Field: August, said in a book and told me many times and a main desire, with the five.
00:29:32.460 --> 00:29:38.760
David Field: was to tell the world what it happened during the Holocaust, so that it would never ever happen again.
00:29:40.980 --> 00:29:51.480
David Field: You he is at the August bed my wife and I saw the documentary film paperclips it was about a small town in Tennessee weather no Jews and a few blacks.
00:29:52.200 --> 00:30:02.760
David Field: assistant principal ended a meeting in South Carolina where he heard the testimony of it's a Bible of a Holocaust update time he hadn't even heard of the Holocaust.
00:30:03.300 --> 00:30:15.720
David Field: It was so taken by the survivors story, and when you return to school and the principal they decided to study the Holocaust and that led teaching air eighth graders and her parents about a tragedy.
00:30:16.830 --> 00:30:28.470
David Field: So five is once were invited to speak to the children and their parents and they were pulled by the tragic events and led in the enormity of the slaughter of so many innocent people.
00:30:29.640 --> 00:30:40.050
David Field: That have been on visualized 6 million dead Jews students decided to collect one paper memorialize each to guide and.
00:30:41.970 --> 00:30:46.440
David Field: Where did this guide to the newspapers that the TV and.
00:30:47.820 --> 00:30:52.200
David Field: People from the United States, as well as other countries contributed paperclips.
00:30:54.000 --> 00:31:04.230
David Field: seeing this documentary, let us is really crucial each student about human rights and social justice so that's such a tragedy is the haircut happy with.
00:31:05.550 --> 00:31:18.240
David Field: The trustees of the Memorial library thought we should bring it the New York City students have middle school high school and college from rural areas in the United States, where the resources and knowledge.
00:31:19.170 --> 00:31:28.290
David Field: Of the Holocaust was scares and teach them how to teach their students about human rights and social justice through the lens of the Holocaust.
00:31:29.640 --> 00:31:39.690
David Field: to fulfill our goals, we needed to accomplish academic refer back the scientists URL PhD what Holocaust stories of women count.
00:31:40.470 --> 00:31:54.060
David Field: That the pro was a member of the National writing project, the organization of over 100,000 English teachers throughout the United States, she had established the New York City chapter, the end wp.
00:31:55.140 --> 00:32:08.460
David Field: With the help of Dr Pearl tolling always memorial library that time put together a 10 day seminar each product is added to that student about human rights and social justice to go into the.
00:32:10.770 --> 00:32:22.290
David Field: holding these seminars mueller and and many of the teachers from rural cities such who attended our seminar at villanova contact with us a little about duty.
00:32:23.550 --> 00:32:28.800
David Field: With us included in our seminars teaching the teachers about who the Jews were.
00:32:30.210 --> 00:32:41.940
David Field: And are we had the rabbi at the local synagogue come to the library Friday afternoon and explain Judaism and what to expect that the services we went through that Friday evening.
00:32:43.200 --> 00:32:53.280
David Field: And at the Friday services we all went back to the library for typical Friday nights invited my wife, even with the shabbat candles and a qantas St jude's so.
00:32:54.690 --> 00:33:03.870
David Field: few days later, we had a class with band, this is the library, he is a leader, the man, so the teachers about Jewish life on the show.
00:33:05.430 --> 00:33:07.470
David Field: Before the war and.
00:33:08.550 --> 00:33:09.750
David Field: By the end of the evening.
00:33:12.420 --> 00:33:16.830
David Field: With dancing around account it was one of the highlights of the seminar.
00:33:18.210 --> 00:33:32.490
David Field: During the 10 day seminar that he just stay at all material nearby calm university and we always spend one full day at Jewish heritage museum, which is full of interesting aspects of Jewish life and as a very fine exhibition.
00:33:35.340 --> 00:33:50.940
David Field: As a result, the police excellent programs we became well known for Holocaust education and see more than 100,000 applications each year for 24 positions, even though the teachers had to take 10 days away from this family.
00:33:54.540 --> 00:34:12.960
David Field: After five years at seminars in New York City totally developed satellite channels, we can talk to blake etc, who attend live in a program where the Channel I spoke to like produce it was for experienced teachers, which studied at the memorial library in New York City.
00:34:14.160 --> 00:34:19.980
David Field: get together and conduct a mini New York City seminar in the home today for 12 or more teachers.
00:34:21.330 --> 00:34:30.000
David Field: Only plan for the satellite the to teacher leaders coming to New York City or short seminar and how to advertise the satellite and conducted.
00:34:31.230 --> 00:34:37.350
David Field: That was approved totally paid all of the expenses, including an honorarium for the teachers.
00:34:38.820 --> 00:34:41.340
David Field: Eight we've had over 50 satellite seminars.
00:34:42.570 --> 00:34:45.600
David Field: Well, more than 2022.
00:34:47.040 --> 00:35:00.120
David Field: Now, approximately eight years ago we formed the ultra lingo institute Alec is a human rights all in order Olga and adopted a motto never again begins in the classroom.
00:35:01.200 --> 00:35:13.890
David Field: So he assumed all the activities of the Memorial library totally was formed as a tax exempt charity this game totally the right to raise tax deductible funds from the public that supported activities.
00:35:15.330 --> 00:35:20.370
David Field: At about that time started holding seminars in foreign countries, indigenous teachers.
00:35:21.450 --> 00:35:26.760
David Field: But it in Romania and Bulgaria all and now have eight points seminars, including.
00:35:28.170 --> 00:35:38.340
David Field: REACH on Bulgaria, Romania, Romania, Italy and Ukraine, like 2022 we expect in Mexico, like the answer.
00:35:40.680 --> 00:35:41.910
David Field: Each phone seminar.
00:35:43.020 --> 00:35:45.360
David Field: By local Holocaust education group.
00:35:46.380 --> 00:35:51.990
David Field: And usually last two to three days with 30 to 40 in business teachers.
00:35:54.120 --> 00:36:01.470
David Field: When someone from totally attends good time I hope thing is translation roots, so that we can dissipate in the seminar.
00:36:03.060 --> 00:36:21.030
David Field: To enhance the teaching of our guys like peaches domestic and foreign movies ended our seminars with satellite and you have a mini grants that teaches his mini grants a cash rewards teaches special projects but it's trips to a local Holocaust Museum.
00:36:22.230 --> 00:36:32.010
David Field: Or to pay for a Holocaust survivor expenses to come to the school to the student special artwork relating to Holocaust and so.
00:36:33.420 --> 00:36:47.160
David Field: All applications for many grants must be approved by both in the US, the maximum cash was as an hour's probably grant and 350 euro in Europe teaching us submit a form reports on projects, including.
00:36:48.750 --> 00:37:09.840
David Field: By now, we have proved up at three European mini grants and 20 in the United States today over 3000 teachers have attended our seminar and satellite seminars and just always happens, we estimate over 500,000 students have experienced holocaust.
00:37:12.360 --> 00:37:29.730
David Field: In October of 2019 totally was invited by us Holocaust Memorial museum to bring 15 of our St jude's as its guests for a five day seminar museum and demonstrate our teaching methods quite a tribute.
00:37:31.020 --> 00:37:33.900
David Field: Olga would be very pleased by what we're doing and.
00:37:36.300 --> 00:37:42.330
David Field: So, unfortunately, the coronavirus advocates cause temporary modifications what programs.
00:37:43.620 --> 00:38:02.340
David Field: But there's another epidemic that has been around for centuries, that epidemic is called anti Semitism is taken many more lives than the coronavirus However, there is a vaccine for anti semitism and that vaccine is.
00:38:04.260 --> 00:38:15.330
David Field: Totally has that vaccine, but it needs your support to administer remember never again begins in the classroom Thank you and God bless.
00:38:24.450 --> 00:38:24.990
Sara Horowitz: taxi.
00:38:27.180 --> 00:38:27.720
Nancy Fisher: Thank you.
00:38:28.800 --> 00:38:29.850
Nancy Fisher: Good afternoon.
00:38:31.080 --> 00:38:32.850
Nancy Fisher: My name is Steve Fisher.
00:38:34.410 --> 00:38:55.230
Nancy Fisher: I am a trustee of the Museum of Jewish heritage, a living memorials of the Holocaust, but before I joined the board years ago I started as a volunteer a citizen volunteer as or with the US see show foundation in Los Angeles.
00:38:58.020 --> 00:39:01.350
Nancy Fisher: i've been interviewing since 1995.
00:39:03.030 --> 00:39:03.930
Nancy Fisher: And I think.
00:39:05.010 --> 00:39:07.740
Nancy Fisher: Having interviewed over 180 people.
00:39:08.820 --> 00:39:26.610
Nancy Fisher: So i've been doing this for years, some of the interviews stayed with me over my lifetime and certainly all goes was one of them, I live in Manhattan and interviewed Olga in the mansion that are a shared with you on 79 street.
00:39:28.140 --> 00:39:33.000
Nancy Fisher: If any of you watching this live in Manhattan, there is the canopy.
00:39:34.020 --> 00:39:43.890
Nancy Fisher: To the building that is still quite visible it's a memorial library to her parents and it is between park and medicine haven't you ever walk that way.
00:39:47.910 --> 00:39:58.290
Nancy Fisher: i'd like to humanize this what I have to say by just repeating her parents and her children's and her husband's names her father was Ferdinand.
00:39:59.520 --> 00:40:20.250
Nancy Fisher: Her mother's name was ios her husband's name was Nicholas and she had the two children two the two boys are about Thomas and David who Sarah said before, was adopted and just that point of the adoption of a child, David was the child of.
00:40:21.510 --> 00:40:28.470
Nancy Fisher: Hungarian parents, the father died in the Labor service, the Labor of Italians and the mother died.
00:40:29.910 --> 00:40:38.340
Nancy Fisher: After a medical procedure, so he he was in an orphanage so Olga and her husband adopted David.
00:40:39.660 --> 00:40:43.140
Nancy Fisher: One of the many gestures that impressed me about this woman.
00:40:44.520 --> 00:40:58.230
Nancy Fisher: In re watching remembering her and remembering the interview but spending the last several days watch the interview again, which was a very said five hours, I think it was my longest one.
00:40:59.910 --> 00:41:00.630
Nancy Fisher: In any event.
00:41:03.120 --> 00:41:23.550
Nancy Fisher: Olga grew up in a very cultured family I wouldn't say identified very heavily as a Jewish family, but it was a very intellectual environment that she lived in and also a very charitable one and her parents really were mentors to her and terms of the way she should behave in life.
00:41:24.600 --> 00:41:34.890
Nancy Fisher: helping others her father was a physician her mother did charity work and so that reaching out was part of her.
00:41:36.330 --> 00:41:37.650
Nancy Fisher: She was.
00:41:39.930 --> 00:41:46.380
Nancy Fisher: Really overcome with with what the Germans did to her people.
00:41:47.610 --> 00:41:50.730
Nancy Fisher: which she referred to as the collapse of civilization.
00:41:52.860 --> 00:41:58.980
Nancy Fisher: And of course her neighbors the Hungarians deporting she and her family.
00:42:00.030 --> 00:42:08.490
Nancy Fisher: Not to Germany, but to Auschwitz Birkenau at the end of May of 1944 in one of many transports there.
00:42:10.800 --> 00:42:11.730
Nancy Fisher: we've discussed.
00:42:12.900 --> 00:42:22.410
Nancy Fisher: We discussed the choice that you made emits the exhaustion and depletion and thirst and confusion of arriving in Auschwitz.
00:42:24.330 --> 00:42:35.130
Nancy Fisher: I think pretty thoroughly, but she was a good daughter, she was a loving daughter, and she in her narrative in her memoir.
00:42:36.720 --> 00:42:41.850
Nancy Fisher: said that she went to her mother before arrival and apologize to her.
00:42:43.290 --> 00:42:45.840
Nancy Fisher: and her mother said to her.
00:42:47.550 --> 00:42:48.720
Nancy Fisher: sort of scolding her.
00:42:50.190 --> 00:43:01.500
Nancy Fisher: You have the bad nature, she was translating from Hungarian she didn't really mean it as bad, you have the bad nature, you always think of others before yourself.
00:43:02.160 --> 00:43:12.870
Nancy Fisher: And while that was an impossibility when she arrived, and she sent her mother and the children to their deaths from that time on.
00:43:14.370 --> 00:43:15.840
Nancy Fisher: She did demonstrate.
00:43:17.760 --> 00:43:22.650
Nancy Fisher: That kind of charity and caring for other people, whether it was in the women in her Bauer.
00:43:23.670 --> 00:43:28.260
Nancy Fisher: whether she was in the infirmary which was mentioned the work that she did there.
00:43:30.480 --> 00:43:31.380
Nancy Fisher: She tried to.
00:43:32.670 --> 00:43:36.000
Nancy Fisher: keep going and stay alive, but she did have.
00:43:37.410 --> 00:43:40.680
Nancy Fisher: A temptation to commit suicide from what she was saved.
00:43:43.560 --> 00:43:44.130
Nancy Fisher: and
00:43:45.780 --> 00:43:52.680
Nancy Fisher: I just like to interject i'm sorry it seems to be out of place, that I deeply appreciate having served usc Shoah foundation.
00:43:53.280 --> 00:44:09.570
Nancy Fisher: My injure my shitty show foundation sorry videographer the day was john Calvin and olga's accountant at the time elliptical cope was sitting in the mansion listening to the entire interview.
00:44:12.510 --> 00:44:20.790
Nancy Fisher: Her humanity came through in a place where there was no humanity in all the things that she did for other people.
00:44:22.200 --> 00:44:26.850
Nancy Fisher: She was brave she was daring approaching Dr Fritz Klein.
00:44:28.230 --> 00:44:33.810
Nancy Fisher: being beaten by the notorious camp guard irma grazer.
00:44:35.910 --> 00:44:40.290
Nancy Fisher: and other punishments that the women in particular suffered and ash wits.
00:44:43.140 --> 00:44:43.740
Nancy Fisher: She.
00:44:44.820 --> 00:44:49.410
Nancy Fisher: left on a death March and survived the death March.
00:44:51.630 --> 00:44:53.220
Nancy Fisher: Actually escaping from it.
00:44:54.450 --> 00:45:02.700
Nancy Fisher: By moving back gradually with three other women to the back and escaping with them.
00:45:04.800 --> 00:45:10.920
Nancy Fisher: And instead of being betrayed in the place that they found to to sleeping they were actually helped.
00:45:13.950 --> 00:45:14.670
Nancy Fisher: The.
00:45:15.900 --> 00:45:24.720
Nancy Fisher: story her story is an odyssey it's an extraordinary odyssey she told the whole interview, the whole story of her life.
00:45:26.040 --> 00:45:33.480
Nancy Fisher: She was very much in control of the interview which was a good thing I I only prompted her several times, through it.
00:45:34.830 --> 00:45:38.370
Nancy Fisher: But she was a philosopher she had extraordinary language.
00:45:40.560 --> 00:45:42.570
Nancy Fisher: She described terrible things.
00:45:44.280 --> 00:45:48.480
Nancy Fisher: She never cried she never broke down she was.
00:45:49.920 --> 00:45:54.450
Nancy Fisher: very strong for a woman who, on the day of the interview was 90 years old.
00:45:57.630 --> 00:46:00.000
Nancy Fisher: So as an interviewer.
00:46:01.560 --> 00:46:03.780
Nancy Fisher: The stories that I heard from her.
00:46:04.920 --> 00:46:22.740
Nancy Fisher: Have resonated with me, I am very really glad that I had the chance to watch the interview yet again to be reminded, what a What a wonderful woman she really was, in spite of the suffering what she did with her life, how she recovered how she went from.
00:46:25.140 --> 00:46:34.020
Nancy Fisher: Auschwitz, on the death camp death march to liberation she wanted she stated that she wanted to go with the Russians and help them.
00:46:36.150 --> 00:46:52.320
Nancy Fisher: At that time, made her way to crack off and to marcee and remarkably getting papers and then to Paris, where she had a cousin and Paris is where she started to write the memoir.
00:46:55.380 --> 00:46:57.990
Nancy Fisher: And I just would like to end with what.
00:46:59.220 --> 00:47:02.310
Nancy Fisher: with a quote from what she said about writing the book.
00:47:04.230 --> 00:47:12.300
Nancy Fisher: I had no material to refer to my book, was the first one, in which was written about the concentration camp and published.
00:47:13.620 --> 00:47:23.910
Nancy Fisher: The wound was so deep that people didn't feel like sitting down and reliving the horrible experiences I have constant nightmares I couldn't sleep.
00:47:24.780 --> 00:47:40.140
Nancy Fisher: The memories came over me but I felt it is my duty, and therefore I survived to let the world know, not because I wanted the wound of former prisoners and all those people who suffered should cry.
00:47:41.220 --> 00:48:03.390
Nancy Fisher: about the pain, I had to let the world know the dangers that can occur and the little things like an unknown insane house painter who was medically established as insane could turn the world upside down and the so called normal world follow the insane person.
00:48:04.710 --> 00:48:13.110
Nancy Fisher: So we have to prevent that similar things should happen again, people should come together the moment that there is a danger.
00:48:15.000 --> 00:48:21.870
Nancy Fisher: and endangers one group, because it means that it endangers all of us.
00:48:23.430 --> 00:48:24.030
Nancy Fisher: So.
00:48:25.530 --> 00:48:30.960
Nancy Fisher: her words live on her gestures live on the totally Institute.
00:48:33.090 --> 00:48:36.390
Nancy Fisher: lives on to help other teachers teach about the Holocaust.
00:48:38.070 --> 00:48:41.730
Nancy Fisher: And before we open it up to questions.
00:48:44.220 --> 00:49:02.880
Nancy Fisher: So many survivors that I interviewed either had no artifacts or any photographs at the end of their interview is to share their Olga had the various copies of her book five chimneys but she also had one artifact that I never forgot.
00:49:05.130 --> 00:49:07.170
Nancy Fisher: When I pass by the of.
00:49:08.940 --> 00:49:20.160
Nancy Fisher: The mansion I would wonder over the years, what happened to this artifact and the artifact was a sweater it was a sleeveless thing I was going to show it to you.
00:49:21.420 --> 00:49:28.020
Nancy Fisher: This sweater the sleeveless sweater was brought into Auschwitz by another unknown deportee.
00:49:29.070 --> 00:49:29.610
Nancy Fisher: and
00:49:31.290 --> 00:49:39.600
Nancy Fisher: The possessions, of the deported Jews were taken to several barracks which were referred to as Canada, with a K.
00:49:41.340 --> 00:49:52.410
Nancy Fisher: And they were gone through and the Germans were looking for jewelry at money and things that could be taken back to Germany and be used by Germans.
00:49:53.310 --> 00:50:07.410
Nancy Fisher: So all good bartered a piece of bread for the sweater and you'll notice that there are these red three red circles on it, this is the only thing that she wore on top of her.
00:50:09.450 --> 00:50:18.120
Nancy Fisher: I don't even know if she ever had a concentration camp uniform she described this ridiculous dress that she's given after coming out of the shower upon.
00:50:18.720 --> 00:50:28.350
Nancy Fisher: Registration into the camp, but she had this sweater she warned on a death March and it came with her across Europe and to the United States.
00:50:29.400 --> 00:50:29.850
Nancy Fisher: and
00:50:31.290 --> 00:50:48.180
Nancy Fisher: The red circles identified her as somebody who had permission to move about the camp from the infirmary to her barrack, but it also enabled her to be sharp easily shop by the camp guards.
00:50:49.290 --> 00:50:51.360
Nancy Fisher: it's really very small and.
00:50:52.680 --> 00:50:55.110
Nancy Fisher: She must have been a tiny woman in any event.
00:50:56.280 --> 00:51:07.650
Nancy Fisher: The museum of Jewish heritage will be presenting this sweater in the future in its exhibitions anyway, I want to thank everybody for the chance to have spoken about it.
00:51:10.260 --> 00:51:23.580
Nancy Fisher: The experience of interviewing is really quite profound in terms of the way that all the stories and all the personalities, you know sort of settle over you and they stay with you like post its.
00:51:24.330 --> 00:51:37.140
Nancy Fisher: I learned from the people I interviewed and I think I grew from the people that I interviewed and I have enormous respect for those who suffered and those who survived, certainly, so thank you.
00:51:39.420 --> 00:51:49.350
Sara Horowitz: Thank you Nancy it was wonderful to have a window into that time of your interview in the time that remains we we want to, of course.
00:51:50.100 --> 00:52:10.200
Sara Horowitz: respond to the questions and that some of you have, so please I know some of you have already done so, please feel free to type in questions you should see on your zoom screen a Q amp a button and that's really there for you to for you to ask questions so i'm going to.
00:52:12.150 --> 00:52:26.820
Sara Horowitz: Post some of the questions to the panelists and a cluster of them really have to do with wanting to know more autobiographical details about ogle angle, such as her religious identity and affiliation.
00:52:27.840 --> 00:52:37.770
Sara Horowitz: What she did what kind of work she did when she moved to the US to check every married did she ever have any any children after the war, so.
00:52:39.300 --> 00:52:42.540
Sara Horowitz: The field is open, please, please jump in if you can answer that.
00:52:45.030 --> 00:52:47.820
David Field: Well, as the story about the religion.
00:52:48.930 --> 00:52:51.000
David Field: never really admitted to do it.
00:52:52.590 --> 00:53:12.750
David Field: Although we know that she was for equals, we spoke the relatives of hers who to add that she passed away later the family was Jewish but a tour of hidden jewishness they were very assimilated into the society and did not go to synagogue to observe any of the Jewish holidays.
00:53:16.230 --> 00:53:26.100
David Field: So the question is whether she remarried my understanding is she did remarry she remarried a man who own supermarkets in Cuba.
00:53:27.120 --> 00:53:34.950
David Field: And for a time she moved to Cuba and live in a beautiful condominium there, but that kind of medium and all of its.
00:53:35.460 --> 00:53:44.190
David Field: possessions were taken by the Castro Government when Castro came into power lot bear is the President of totally.
00:53:44.970 --> 00:53:57.900
David Field: went to Cuba, about a year or two ago and visited that kind of medium, so it was a beautiful building and very exclusive area, but it was taken from her and her husband by Castro.
00:53:59.340 --> 00:54:00.870
David Field: And she did have a daughter.
00:54:02.430 --> 00:54:05.040
David Field: The daughter stayed with the husband which either was that.
00:54:08.160 --> 00:54:15.330
Sara Horowitz: Thank you, David, we have some questions also that have to do with that the memoir itself, for example.
00:54:16.950 --> 00:54:22.080
Sara Horowitz: What was its reception when it was initially published in the late 40s and.
00:54:23.130 --> 00:54:32.280
Sara Horowitz: what's the connection between the memoir and William sirens novel and the subsequent movie sophie's choice.
00:54:39.750 --> 00:54:56.160
Robert Jan van Pelt: Maybe I maybe I can I can address one of the the the issues that you bring to the table and I speaking in generalities now, I think that one of the let's call it two tragedies of five to me says that appear to early.
00:54:58.140 --> 00:55:02.760
Robert Jan van Pelt: Death if we are it's very clear, for example, if we look at Primo Lavie.
00:55:03.810 --> 00:55:12.630
Robert Jan van Pelt: Member when it's a pH in 1946 no one really was interested in it, it was only 15 years later that it started to get an audience.
00:55:13.050 --> 00:55:20.520
Robert Jan van Pelt: There was an enormous amount of Holocaust Members were actually camp members for producing 45 and 46.
00:55:21.420 --> 00:55:28.620
Robert Jan van Pelt: Many of these things appear, many of them in Polish or other Eastern European languages which were certainly not read.
00:55:29.070 --> 00:55:41.520
Robert Jan van Pelt: In invest in Europe or in the Americas and then by 1946 47 already attend to fatigue seven that you know we've heard story, we know what happened with all terrible.
00:55:42.000 --> 00:55:51.870
Robert Jan van Pelt: And interest by the time her book appeared actually interest in the experiences of Holocaust survivors, especially camp survivors disappeared.
00:55:52.740 --> 00:56:03.690
Robert Jan van Pelt: And, and it really picks up again 2025 years later, and especially in the 1970s when the Holocaust survivor in some way.
00:56:04.620 --> 00:56:12.630
Robert Jan van Pelt: takes place in civil society and and and sorry you mentioned boulder right at the beginning, one of the very interesting pieces.
00:56:12.960 --> 00:56:25.890
Robert Jan van Pelt: When you follow because basically boulders interviews is that it's not yet a word follicle survivor in fact that I know works for many of the things that we that we that we take for granted, was even though we're for Holocaust yet.
00:56:26.850 --> 00:56:42.210
Robert Jan van Pelt: So there was no for cabinetry for people to write it or for people to actually received a vitamix and and I think that that in the outfits exhibition that we have right now and museum of tools heritage, there was a.
00:56:43.320 --> 00:56:55.230
Robert Jan van Pelt: memoir written in Auschwitz in 1945 immediately after the operation, it was published a year later in the Netherlands, nobody read it.
00:56:55.890 --> 00:57:12.570
Robert Jan van Pelt: it's now as a result of the exhibition in museum of Jewish heritage, it has been republished and it is now translated in 30 languages only now is there an audience for that kind of literature, so I think that that you know, one of the issues we have to ask this five Nice is.
00:57:13.710 --> 00:57:20.400
Robert Jan van Pelt: Once it's published too early and, in some way, if it were to be published today again what me right.
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Robert Jan van Pelt: What a would she have written it differently.
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Robert Jan van Pelt: Would an editor also have looked at it differently.
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David Field: Rather than.
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David Field: very interesting each.
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Other to you.
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David Field: Was it is now the book is published it's.
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David Field: it's being published in Romanian and we have a request from Hungary to publish in Hungarian, which is a wonderful thing and Aaron has been so anti Jewish to to or bad it's been impossible for us to get a seminar going hungry, maybe this will spur some movement to getting.
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David Field: There, and also being.
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Sara Horowitz: I think, where i'm running.
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Sara Horowitz: Towards the end of our time.
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Sara Horowitz: So i'm just going to say, maybe a couple of things really quickly, I actually pull this morning or review of the 90 of the memoir when it first came out in France, that is, I pulled a a French review of it it's actually looking at it in astonishment that it's just say the writer, the review.
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Sara Horowitz: Was was shaken by the memoir but, as some of you may know, the conversation about the Holocaust in France.
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Sara Horowitz: really did not pick up steam told us several decades later i'm also going to take the moderators privilege of reading, one of the reading, one of the comments which is from Larry langur a noted scholar of the Holocaust to comments that William styron told him that he.
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Sara Horowitz: When he used Sophie when he used all got as a model for sophie's choice I read the memoir and it didn't even register to him that that Olga was Jewish she thought that she was not so.
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Sara Horowitz: But the question of perception is really an interesting and a complicated one, and the question of manuscript is an interesting and complicated one.
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Sara Horowitz: I don't know anyone who's yet located the Hungarian the original Hungarian manuscript but the French translation on notes and translator and said it was adapted by him, which is to say he had a kind of.
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Sara Horowitz: activist role in editing the material for preparation, so it would be really interesting to see what the original manuscript look like and what kinds of additions were made as.
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Sara Horowitz: As the manuscript transition from French into English, there is a notation in one of the English traditions that she wrote.
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Sara Horowitz: that she expanded her original Hungarian manuscript that was translated into French and attitude for the English translation and there was, and she notes, who translated back, so I think there's a long story to be told, and perhaps some perhaps we'll we'll be able to revisit this.
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Sara Horowitz: In the future, and know more about this fascinating story.
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Ari Goldstein: just wanted to come back briefly to thank you for ending that in such a beautiful way Sarah and to thank all of you for your time and for sharing EG for different perspectives on olga's story.
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Ari Goldstein: As we mentioned her her, she died in April 15 2001 so we hope all of you keep in mind all this story and also her legacy and what am I mean to you as we approach the anniversary of her death next week.
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Ari Goldstein: We put in the chat links to her book five chimneys and tenancies full interview with Olga and we will send those out tomorrow, along with the recording of this program and some additional resources, so we hope you can.
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Ari Goldstein: explore those if you're interested in and learn all the story and in more detail.
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Ari Goldstein: Everything that we do at the Museum of Jewish heritage and at the Omega Institute is made possible through.
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Ari Goldstein: Support of our communities, so if you're watching and if you feel so compelled i'll be will be grateful if you can support the work of the museum and of the Institute and join us for future programs.
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Ari Goldstein: links to both organizations are in the chat Thank you again everyone for joining us thank you, Sarah robbery on David and Nancy for being here and wish everyone have a great afternoon.
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David Field: Thank you.
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Robert Jan van Pelt: Thank you bye.