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Manfred Ohrenstein was born in Mannheim, Germany in 1925. He grew up under increasingly restrictive Nazi rules, holding his Bar Mitzvah at age 13 on the precipice of the Holocaust. In November 1938, less than a week before Kristallnacht, Ohrenstein and his family escaped Germany, made their way to London, and then found refuge in New York City.

Ohrenstein attended high school, college, and law school in his new home, shedding his German accent along the way and practicing public speaking as a soapbox orator on behalf of Zionism.

Ohrenstein became a prominent civic leader in New York, representing Manhattan from 1961 to 1994 in the New York State Senate and serving as the Minority Leader of the State Senate for more than half of his tenure. He co-founded the Museum in the 1980s and still serves as a Vice Chairman of its Board of Trustees.

In this Stories Survive program, Ohrenstein and Jack Kliger, Museum President & CEO, explore Ohrenstein’s story of escape and leadership.

Watch the program below.

Stories Survive is made possible by the Goldie and David Blanksteen Foundation.



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: Welcome to our audience members from around the New York area and country.

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Ari Goldstein: i'm Ari Goldstein Senior Public programs producer at the Museum of Jewish heritage, a living memorial to the Holocaust.

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Ari Goldstein: it's a pleasure to welcome you to today's story survived program with Manfred orenstein.

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Ari Goldstein: A distinguished co founder and vice chairman, the Museum of Jewish heritage and retired New York state Senator who escaped Germany with his family as a child.

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Ari Goldstein: Fred will be interviewed today by jack cleaver President and CEO of the museum.

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Ari Goldstein: please feel free to share questions and comments in the zoom chat throughout their conversation and we'll get to as many as we can, towards the end without further ado welcome Fred, thank you for sharing your story with us today jack feel free to get started.

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Jack Kliger: Thank you laurie for that introduction and thank you Fred so much for joining us today and for being our our guest speaker so.

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Jack Kliger: The museum of Jewish heritage owes a tremendous that to you Fred for having been one of the founders and for leading the effort to create a Holocaust exhibit and resource Center.

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Jack Kliger: Many years ago, starting with a New York state museum effort for Albany and then as early as the 80s, making this this effort to create a.

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Jack Kliger: Living memorial to the Holocaust and a place of remembrance and education, but what i'd like to talk to you about today is your earlier history and how you came to being not only a New York state Senator but one of the founders of this institution.

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Jack Kliger: You were born in 1925 and German.

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Jack Kliger: your father Marcus orenstein was a religious man in Germany.

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Jack Kliger: was a member of the habit Venetia in Mannheim and then the you and your family left Germany just just before Kristallnacht the 1938.

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Jack Kliger: your father go on a separate way, so you and your mother and sister were then sent got got through various ways Cologne and different place and wound up in London, where you reunited with your dad.

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Jack Kliger: And then you made your way to the United States in 1938 so you're really an immigrant and someone who came here without English as a language.

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Jack Kliger: And for those of you who aren't familiar with you as you as you start speaking will see that.

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Jack Kliger: You really don't have an accent so i'd like to start by asking you to read what was it like to come here is a 13 year old boy, on the eve of the war, after having experienced all you did, and then, how come you speak English so beautifully.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: Well, let me answer the second question first when I came, even though I was still a young boy I was determined to become an American.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: I didn't want to be another refugee I I am I was a refugee i'm not any as shamed of that, on the contrary, I was proud that my father and mother were able to successfully.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: It successfully escaped for every five everybody my my parents my older brother and my oldest sister, we were all in one way or another, being able to escape, and it was because of the foresight have my father and so coming here at this at this early time are at this crucial time.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: Just before Chris stone.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: was almost a miracle I and though the longer I I look in retrospect that says, I marvel at the fortune good fortune that I and my family had of being able to literally to escape the worst fact the worst fate.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: By by a number of weeks, I believe we actually came in came to London about four or five days before crosstown.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: I remember being in London, as a young boy and crystal enough and hearing what the Nazis were doing in Germany, including the destruction of my father's business at form of business and so all in all, I have always.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: In retrospect, I have always if I become to realize just how fortunate I wise and the and many other members of my family.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: including my father.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: and mother and it was it was a it was a miracle.

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Jack Kliger: And, and you spoke German when you came to the United States.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: I.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: I I I learned to speak English.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: During the last few years in Mannheim I was in the public school, but it was a Jewish public school, it was a segregated public school and that public school had the wisdom of teaching us young children English in contemplation of the fact that we may be emigrating at some point.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: During that period.

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Jack Kliger: But when you came to the United States, you make a concerted effort to speak English, even better, with no accent or anything like that.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: said I I I I.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: I had from the beginning in my mind that what I wanted to be as an American I my refugee status was my refugee status, but I wanted to become part.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: Of the American scene as quickly and as totally as I could and part of that was to speak English and just speak American English as a matter of fact, what i'm really proud of is, and I speak a bit of brooklyn nice English.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: Which is.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: What I acquired, it was an artist speaking I lived in brownsville brooklyn.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: yeah and i'm very proud of that genesis I know i've traveled a far way from that, but I have never forgotten it.

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Jack Kliger: Fred I have to tell you that it's not hard for people to understand you come from brooklyn as soon as you open your mouth and i'd say.

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Jack Kliger: As a proud brooklyn boy who also lived in brownsville and crown heights so.

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Jack Kliger: What I want to get to also is the fact that you chose a life of public service, many people came here surviving as refugees and decided to go into whatever they put business or whatever, but you chose to become.

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Jack Kliger: a lawyer and then went into public service if you feel a sense of responsibility to do that.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: It was a song it wasn't so much responsibility as a real desire, I wanted to become.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: a leader in American life.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: Because.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: It to me.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: Being becoming an American the way I did having the fortune.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: With despite some of the.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: disagreements, I had with my on on in our religious practices with my father and some of my family we acted together as a family.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: My I had an older brother searching years older than me who was who went to Israel came back to the United States, I had a sister.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: Who was 10 years my senior also ended up in Israel, but also coming back to the United States, and we were we we we had I was on a religious basis, I was a.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: A modern shoe in my, in my opinion, but I was always a Jew, and my identification with jewishness and and Israel is more on the geopolitical sense, rather than on the religious sense but I respect the religious views of my parents, even though I became a.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: A I was not against the religion but I didn't practice the religion but I I was a firmly loyal and committed.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: American Jew, who helped Israel and the American Jewish community during very difficult periods of time.

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Jack Kliger: Yes, I was very struck Fred when we were first speaking, and I said, you know you immigrant became a New York state Senator one of the founders of the museum.

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Jack Kliger: said said, your dad must have been so proud of you, you said, well, he was disappointed in me and I said you're kidding and you talked about it in terms of the fact that your family was very religious.

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Jack Kliger: Your you know both of your parents, as well as your older brother and sister were religious and you chose to be very conscious of Jewish identity but you're more secular as you called it a nationalist to so was there, did you have.

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Jack Kliger: issues with your dad particularly about you're not being a religious person.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: Very much so, but.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: I have to say that I am so proud.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: of my family that despite these serious difference of opinion, my father was a very, very religious directed to dedicated to he was also a very practical businessman.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: And I.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: inherited hit the practical aspects of his life from him.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: I had to I had to we came to have different views about the religion, I was not, I was very away from orthodoxy not jewishness but orthodox see Jewish and.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: Though the the thing I am so privileged about is that despite these differences of opinion in a very large family we stuck it out together, we did not separate.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: We did not allow our differences to.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: go our separate ways, so my father and I, despite our differences in terms of the religion in terms of our being Jews and dedicated as Jews being supporters of israel's strong and and deeply felt.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: supporter of Israel, we were able to work together all of our lives and the family was always remained together, despite the fact that we had some serious differences on the religious and.

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Jack Kliger: Well i'm sure, somehow, I believe that through it all your family must have been so very proud of you, whether or not you're from.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: Well, I, I am glad you.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: said that it will bow well that's why it happened because I, despite the fact that my father, particularly my mother were disappointed than I did not remain as a an Orthodox Jew.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: There was never I i've seen other families who was separated and who hated hated each other, none of that ever happened in my family and i'm very grateful about that.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: To both my father and mother and my mother and my brother and my sister that, despite our differences and religious issues we always remained close and always remained a family.

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Jack Kliger: And as you describe your father beyond being just a religious man and a practical man was really the sort of neuro of how you and your family were able to escape from Germany, it was a very difficult process, but he was very.

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Jack Kliger: Good great foresight didn't be.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: Yes, well, it was very dramatic sometime in 1938 I remember, just when I remember.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: Being waking up in the middle of the night and being told my father was there being told my father was leaving and that he was going to.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: Try to escape from Germany and this all happened in the middle of the night, and it was and from there, you know, most of the beginning of our joint exodus, but my father left.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: smuggled himself into Belgium, where he hit out for several months until it came time for us to join him literally in about a week before Kristallnacht no way to London.

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Jack Kliger: But his plan was always to get out first to a safer place and then bring out the family, he.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: He he left.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: Because he was he was certain he was about to be arrested and put into a concentration camp.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: I saw he left and he left in the middle of the night to escape.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: And, and I have to say that was a hallmark in the in our family, we were so lucky.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: So much luckier than so many other Jews who stayed a little while longer and then got wrapped up in the Holocaust, we literally.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: were able to escape within days before that, before before cristiana and I.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: give credit to that to to my father and his planning and my mother and their planning and.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: As a family, we have done extraordinarily well, despite these terrible things that happened to us.

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Jack Kliger: So look, let me flash forward a little Fred after you came to the United States, you had a successful career as a lawyer and a member of the State Senate, but then.

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Jack Kliger: In the early 80s you chose to move on the subject of a Holocaust Memorial what What was your motivation what made you feel that you needed to make that effort was there.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: Well, I believe that.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: The Holocaust was this terrible terrible affliction.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: perpetrated on us by the Nazis.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: But I felt that out of this.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: while at the same time, there was the the birth in Israel, of a renewed presence of of a Jewish an active Jewish community so while they were that they the terrible different difficulties and events, because of the Nazis, there was also a positive.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: A positive plan by many leaders and my have to say, my father and mother work we're a part of this to.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: find a way out and we found the way out, as I said before, literally about four or five days before customer because the one thing I remember very clearly is being in London unchristian and worrying about what was happening in mind.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: which we learned about in in subsequent days and also, I began to appreciate how lucky we as a family, my father had been able to escape my mother and I and my grandmother were able to escape other parts of the family, one of my uncles and and one of my other grandmother was.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: fell victim to the Holocaust and we, we have never known what has happened to them all, we know is that we're.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: There we're there at the worst time and we're last.

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Jack Kliger: Friday I remember when you came to see me shortly I wasn't at the museum as President that long, but you came in, shortly after the events in charlottesville in 2017 and us talk to me about the fact.

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Jack Kliger: Some opinions you had, and I remember how strongly you felt, having been a young man, a young boy in Mannheim Germany watching the Nazis parade down the street and then.

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Jack Kliger: seeing something like charlottesville took place, you said it had a chilling effect on you and that you felt very strongly about the need to speak out on that you talk a little about what that felt like watching.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: Well, when I saw.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: The.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: influx of the people who are the the our enemies are our detractors and say that Jews will not replace us, I remember that and to me.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: The anger that I felt is almost indescribable.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: Fortunately.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: Because of my career because of the kind of a person I am.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: I was always able to channel my anger into constructive.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: Interference trusted constructs this into construct and actions and that's what I.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: prepared to do.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: Here, here we were.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: In early 1938.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: Being.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: Slowly but surely engulfed by the Nazis in during that next five years and.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: During that time.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: My my my brother, was able to leave my sister was able to leave and then later on my family was able to leave and my brother and sister both went to Israel.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: They neither of them was able to have a successful life in Israel and i'm not saying that in criticism, it was it was simply that there they they.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: They they realized, while they were in Israel that this was not the place where they wanted to spend the rest of their life.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: As Jews, they didn't have any net, and this was nothing negative of Israel, it was a personal decision and they came to the to the United States and they they meaning right brother and my sister and I.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: Were my parents were able to figure out, despite our religious differences to spend a to continue to be activists Jews activists supporters of Israel, as we are to this very day.

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Jack Kliger: You know, but there is an image in my head of sitting and talking to you at the.

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Jack Kliger: boardroom when you came in after charlottesville sitting down and watching you talk with the Statue of Liberty behind you and you're saying.

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Jack Kliger: We couldn't say anything and Mannheim when I was a kid and we now are in a position where we're not be silent that I don't want to be silenced that i've said frank.

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Jack Kliger: You will have the ability to speak, but in the interim, you help build this institution, a place where we could speak out and you took advantage of.

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Jack Kliger: You know the opportunities that Jews have had here in the United States to be equal and an active citizens, and I could I could hear them how how much you felt it was important to not be silent.

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Jack Kliger: So the interim is that you helped to build an institution that made it possible to to to speak this message and you had a combination of anger and pry that's an interesting combination isn't it.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: well.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: You can be angry and strike out and and and get it get try to get it out of your system and it doesn't accomplish very much except maybe for yourself, fortunately, I was able to channel that anger into into a creative.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: into creative Holocaust Memorial memorial activities which, fortunately, for me, and all of us colleagues at the museum, which ended up these memorials in a in a sort of a complicated set of multi year effort and and up in the creation of the museum.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: The museum of the Holocaust, when I call the Holocaust Museum and i'm very proud of it.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: I think, to me see them as well as you, as I have told you what I am most proud of arts and museums museums are wonderful institutions and museums.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: commemorate history talk a little bit about the presence, but they're not activist institutions this institution is an activist institution and.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: I would not have been able to continue in it, if it weren't that I was I am I was an m so privilege to be able to be part of a group of people who can memorialize the Holocaust and then use that as an act as activists.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: Activists presentation in the life of Jews and the United States in Israel, if anything, I do my only frustration is that we have not been able to translate our joint.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: Efforts in as good a way to to the rest of the Jewish community there's always.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: People who are not quite on top of what needs to be done and.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: Then we continue to show the way.

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Jack Kliger: Yes, for it and I will say that one of the important aspects we are a museum but we're really an institution that has a museum within its walls, but we do so much.

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Jack Kliger: And the two guiding principles that you and the founders establish that we have been trying to fulfill our not only remembrance, but education, not only what happened.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: But what combat is my it's not only education it's.

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Jack Kliger: Also activism absolutely and and and all of those points are.

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Jack Kliger: Not only reminded by the board, but very actively promoted, we were very pleased and proud to do.

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Jack Kliger: Is this what you had hoped for, when you started when you the founders of the museum started it, what did you hope would happen.

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Jack Kliger: down the line, what did you think would be the effect of creating music and it's its mission.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: Well, as an interesting question I don't know how much we had in mind what was what would happen in the ensuing years All I know is what we did, and what we did collectively.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: There, there are there are this museum is fortunate in having an extraordinary bunch of people, people have independent means people have independent activities in the American scene and the world seen people who are important people in and of themselves but have decided.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: that it was important for them to create this museum and to have it as an activist part of the American Jewish community and that's what we have done and that's what we continue to do sometimes we're a little controversial but.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: what's wrong with that how out of that kind of controversy, a lot of good things happen.

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Jack Kliger: Absolutely, we you know where we are, we want to create what what john Lewis bold good trouble.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: Good.

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Manfred Ohrenstein: Ground like that.

00:29:00.570 --> 00:29:00.870

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Jack Kliger: So so Fred we are now entering the 25th year assume the 25th year of the museum and its existence and long tradition in the Jewish.

00:29:15.090 --> 00:29:34.050
Jack Kliger: religion and the Jewish people is generation to generation, and we are handing over to the next generation of leadership of members of audience, the idea of this institution, and that we want to push for the idea of remembrance education and activism, as you say.

00:29:36.720 --> 00:29:44.790
Jack Kliger: Many of the people we're involving in engaging in the museum are actually the third and the fourth generation of survivors.

00:29:48.030 --> 00:29:55.500
Jack Kliger: Do you have anything that concerns you about the path of where we are heading.

00:29:56.640 --> 00:30:07.290
Jack Kliger: Either society Lee or something we can think as an issue that we should really address, I guess, one of the questions i'm trying to talk about is, we have a lot of controversy about the subject of immigration.

00:30:08.250 --> 00:30:18.420
Jack Kliger: you're an immigrant you came here to place that opened its doors to a very needy family, how do you feel about the discussions today that are going on around immigration.

00:30:19.440 --> 00:30:26.100
Manfred Ohrenstein: Well, I was and if I get something some somewhat political so bit.

00:30:27.570 --> 00:30:33.150
Manfred Ohrenstein: I have to say I was very concerned until the election of Joe Biden.

00:30:35.460 --> 00:30:36.180
Manfred Ohrenstein: Under.

00:30:38.010 --> 00:30:40.080
Manfred Ohrenstein: The republican party's leadership.

00:30:41.760 --> 00:30:43.800
Manfred Ohrenstein: The Republican Party and.

00:30:45.210 --> 00:30:54.240
Manfred Ohrenstein: I will see democratic leader of the Senate, I was, which was a minority leader, we had a.

00:30:55.350 --> 00:31:06.780
Manfred Ohrenstein: republican leader from bands in New York, who is a wonderful gentleman We work very closely together, despite the fact that we were of opposite.

00:31:07.140 --> 00:31:17.820
Manfred Ohrenstein: political views, and he was a republican I was a democrat, but we were able to work together and do things together and that's the model that I that I see.

00:31:18.990 --> 00:31:33.000
Manfred Ohrenstein: i'm you know i'm concerned about that, I am concerned, a political differences, undermine what our mission as Americans should be and.

00:31:34.050 --> 00:31:45.690
Manfred Ohrenstein: That is work that has to be done every day, every week every month, and every year because they're always for forces which which.

00:31:46.800 --> 00:31:58.590
Manfred Ohrenstein: Which push us into doing me and demeaning things, both in the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, and it is up to people like myself and others.

00:31:59.460 --> 00:32:21.210
Manfred Ohrenstein: In the democratic Republican Party to know why, or what our our legitimate political differences in terms of who the leaders should be and how those leadership comport themselves, but there should be no difference in our dedication to the American ideal.

00:32:22.740 --> 00:32:40.920
Manfred Ohrenstein: of democracy, openness and ability to communicate without fear or favor without the constraints that were put on such activity by the Nazis and other followers of.

00:32:42.120 --> 00:32:48.570
Manfred Ohrenstein: The Nazis, the Russians and other followers of political dictatorships.

00:32:49.920 --> 00:33:01.710
Jack Kliger: that's a very well put way of doing it i'm saying it Fred and and very well put in terms of the nativist kind of instinct that many, many people in this country have.

00:33:03.600 --> 00:33:04.860
Jack Kliger: So read.

00:33:05.940 --> 00:33:07.980
Jack Kliger: In the short time we have left.

00:33:09.420 --> 00:33:15.870
Jack Kliger: If there was one thing that I wanted to say it's that I believe that.

00:33:17.580 --> 00:33:31.890
Jack Kliger: Even though you say that your your dad Marcus was not entirely happy with your choice of the path you took somehow I suspect that he was at the end of the day, very proud of what you have been able to help accomplish.

00:33:32.940 --> 00:33:36.720
Jack Kliger: you've created help create one of the largest.

00:33:38.190 --> 00:33:48.090
Jack Kliger: Holocaust museums in the world, the third or fourth largest, as we say, and the largest independent, but what we want to be there, so much more than a museum, we want to be an institution.

00:33:48.510 --> 00:33:58.020
Jack Kliger: That fights for the right thing, like to say and i'm glad that you feel that we're we're living up to the challenge that you put forth on what we should do.

00:34:00.000 --> 00:34:02.190
Jack Kliger: I would like to sort of dedicate this.

00:34:03.750 --> 00:34:06.720
Jack Kliger: story survive session to Marcus orenstein.

00:34:07.950 --> 00:34:23.190
Jack Kliger: I think that what he what he begat mainly meant for orenstein helped create this institution, and I know we're all very proud of what you did, and the challenge you give to us to continue to push forward to that mission.

00:34:25.980 --> 00:34:37.170
Jack Kliger: In fact you're 95 years old and it's really fascinating to hear you talk, because you you're you're young of mine young a spirit, if not quite young when.

00:34:38.580 --> 00:34:40.530
Manfred Ohrenstein: I expect to be around for a while.

00:34:41.010 --> 00:34:54.360
Jack Kliger: that's that's that's fine deal and we'll be we'll be glad to do it is there anything else you'd like to talk about from your early years I mean Do you remember much about man hi.

00:34:56.340 --> 00:35:09.540
Manfred Ohrenstein: I do, as a matter of fact, and I it's it really amazes me how much I do remember, I remember, for instance, very dramatically in.

00:35:10.620 --> 00:35:14.310
Manfred Ohrenstein: The early months of 1938.

00:35:17.280 --> 00:35:22.890
Manfred Ohrenstein: Being aware of the fact that there was a political change in.

00:35:24.960 --> 00:35:32.220
Manfred Ohrenstein: In Germany, and that we were being taken over by a.

00:35:33.240 --> 00:35:45.600
Manfred Ohrenstein: that there was a a a dictatorial stream of activity which was taking place and which had to concern Jews.

00:35:47.700 --> 00:36:14.190
Manfred Ohrenstein: Jews, in particular, and how I how I knew this at the age of 13 I don't know, the only thing I know and, and this is what I have said to you retrospectively my father and I had serious issues around the religion but it turns out that, despite that he never allowed.

00:36:15.210 --> 00:36:17.670
Manfred Ohrenstein: Those differences to.

00:36:18.960 --> 00:36:30.390
Manfred Ohrenstein: create a split in the family that was disrupt that that was a problem and disruption we somehow learned how to.

00:36:31.380 --> 00:36:49.500
Manfred Ohrenstein: talk to each other, respectfully and how to respect each other, particularly it took me a while to understand that the, despite the fact that my father was upset with me because of the fact that I did not continue to be an author talks true.

00:36:50.700 --> 00:36:51.240
Manfred Ohrenstein: He.

00:36:52.710 --> 00:37:00.000
Manfred Ohrenstein: made it possible, and help me and my family to continue to work together.

00:37:01.170 --> 00:37:17.340
Manfred Ohrenstein: on building a business which he which he built and which I did not give him enough credit for over the years, one of the things I would wish most if I if I could talk to my father one time.

00:37:18.570 --> 00:37:22.770
Manfred Ohrenstein: In town, how much I appreciate his.

00:37:25.110 --> 00:37:26.760
Manfred Ohrenstein: His his wisdom.

00:37:27.870 --> 00:37:33.420
Manfred Ohrenstein: But, as we know, when when when religious differences.

00:37:35.130 --> 00:37:37.830
Manfred Ohrenstein: intervene in our lives, sometimes.

00:37:38.940 --> 00:37:43.950
Manfred Ohrenstein: On both sides there's a certain amount of obstinacy and blindness.

00:37:45.060 --> 00:37:54.720
Manfred Ohrenstein: i'm glad to say that while there were periods when those issues existed in the long term, my family.

00:37:56.070 --> 00:38:06.420
Manfred Ohrenstein: was able to work together and still works together and i'm grateful for that and in retrospect retrospect.

00:38:06.870 --> 00:38:32.340
Manfred Ohrenstein: My father, a great deal of credit for it because he was a very orthodox true he was the the religion meant everything to him and seeing myself straight from that was very painful to them yeah but he never cut me off any ever allowed the family just click.

00:38:34.050 --> 00:38:40.770
Jack Kliger: Well Fred you know your father sounds like he was not only a very religious man, but he had also what we call a lot of sale.

00:38:41.670 --> 00:38:49.110
Manfred Ohrenstein: A lot of well, he was a practical, as I said to you is also a very good business and that's part that's the part I hadn't heard.

00:38:49.830 --> 00:38:52.410
Jack Kliger: That sounds like you heard a little bit of sale today.

00:38:54.060 --> 00:39:04.680
Jack Kliger: So we want to, I want to thank you for for sharing so many aspects of your story about your family about your coming here.

00:39:05.910 --> 00:39:14.580
Jack Kliger: 13 in the shadow of war, having experienced so much and having been able to make such a tremendous contribution to you know.

00:39:15.540 --> 00:39:22.800
Jack Kliger: The state the city and to be a founding member of the creation of this institution.

00:39:23.550 --> 00:39:34.260
Jack Kliger: We hope we're doing you proud we, we know that you have expectations for us to continue to to move into the next generation of being a voice for.

00:39:34.800 --> 00:39:51.780
Jack Kliger: For those who now have a voice that could not speak in other parts of the world and other times so we were that responsibility very strong and thank you for for putting that mantle on our shoulders and for for creating the platform with which we can do it.

00:39:52.830 --> 00:40:05.880
Jack Kliger: I think that we ought to maybe open it up at this point, unless Fred if you have any anything you'd like to say, I think we have some questions and i'm going to ask Gary to come back in and.

00:40:06.540 --> 00:40:18.060
Jack Kliger: Ask some of those questions, but I do want to close by thanking you for all of your efforts over the years, saying that i'm sure Marcus orenstein was was not.

00:40:18.210 --> 00:40:22.830
Jack Kliger: alone i'm sure Marcus is proud of your your efforts.

00:40:23.100 --> 00:40:26.010
Manfred Ohrenstein: So recently we seem to have lost each other.

00:40:26.460 --> 00:40:30.210
Jack Kliger: I think you froze read, but I think i'm going back to our.

00:40:30.810 --> 00:40:33.450
Ari Goldstein: Our agents i'm not.

00:40:34.680 --> 00:40:44.040
Ari Goldstein: Everyone and jack i'm going to put the photos on the screen and see if I can assist friends iPad to wanna maybe you walk us through what we're seeing and.

00:40:44.460 --> 00:40:57.810
Jack Kliger: Why don't you work on French iPad and we can look at some of these photos that we found from our here we go, this is a photograph of the fabric production group in Mannheim in 1925.

00:40:58.710 --> 00:41:14.370
Jack Kliger: As many of you know that have a condition group with the people who watched over the dead bodies of people who have died before they've been entered and Marcus ornstein man for its father is if you'll see in the middle of man with the long white beard and above him a man with a.

00:41:14.700 --> 00:41:15.150
Jack Kliger: sort of.

00:41:16.020 --> 00:41:26.850
Jack Kliger: van dyck beard to his left on our screen is Marcus orenstein wearing the tie and the high collar and having that little mustache and who.

00:41:27.300 --> 00:41:43.350
Jack Kliger: If you all look kind of striking resemblance to Manfred orenstein he's on the top row seventh from the Left next to the man with a band like beard but an amazing I mean it looks like Fred orenstein with with dark hair.

00:41:43.740 --> 00:41:47.400
Ari Goldstein: And krejci be back online now, so you should be able to see each other yeah.

00:41:47.910 --> 00:41:48.510
Ari Goldstein: i'm back.

00:41:49.440 --> 00:41:52.050
Jack Kliger: To a photo of your father they're looking at us like.

00:41:52.830 --> 00:42:06.600
Ari Goldstein: Unbelievable believe that that whole picture is an unbelievable picture, because it shows the Mannheim Jewish leadership.

00:42:08.010 --> 00:42:11.790
Ari Goldstein: of which I was very, very conscious and.

00:42:15.210 --> 00:42:20.790
Ari Goldstein: I have to say, in retrospect, this as you could see was a very.

00:42:23.280 --> 00:42:25.440
Ari Goldstein: orthodox group of people.

00:42:25.890 --> 00:42:26.970
Ari Goldstein: By and large.

00:42:27.420 --> 00:42:41.340
Ari Goldstein: But they will also practical business people, by and large, and they were able to combine that and for whatever reason, in a Pal need to.

00:42:42.540 --> 00:42:45.480
Ari Goldstein: To to in my thinking.

00:42:46.500 --> 00:42:48.960
Ari Goldstein: To be more of a.

00:42:50.610 --> 00:42:57.600
Ari Goldstein: Practical drew as as distinguished from being a an Orthodox Jew.

00:42:59.640 --> 00:43:00.810
Jack Kliger: The fact is that.

00:43:00.960 --> 00:43:03.870
Ari Goldstein: We were able to continue working together.

00:43:04.080 --> 00:43:05.340
Ari Goldstein: And they allowed that.

00:43:05.550 --> 00:43:09.120
Ari Goldstein: And I wanted that and we have succeeded.

00:43:09.630 --> 00:43:15.030
Jack Kliger: yeah so this year, this was photograph was taken in 1925 the year you were born.

00:43:21.000 --> 00:43:21.180
Manfred Ohrenstein: So.

00:43:21.720 --> 00:43:26.340
Jack Kliger: i'm trying to understand hearing an ECHO there but that's okay I are working on it.

00:43:27.540 --> 00:43:32.460
Jack Kliger: So already can we go to the next photograph of that possible.

00:43:34.170 --> 00:43:34.500
Manfred Ohrenstein: i'm.

00:43:34.590 --> 00:43:36.000
Jack Kliger: From your voice is not.

00:43:36.000 --> 00:43:36.360

00:43:38.160 --> 00:43:38.910
Jack Kliger: Manfred.

00:43:39.000 --> 00:43:40.020
Jack Kliger: here's a pig yes.

00:43:40.260 --> 00:43:42.840
Manfred Ohrenstein: here's a play here, you been only faintly.

00:43:45.030 --> 00:43:46.710
Jack Kliger: Well here's a picture of your mom.

00:43:47.370 --> 00:43:48.000

00:43:49.080 --> 00:43:50.460
Jack Kliger: Taking in the early 19.

00:43:50.850 --> 00:43:54.660
Manfred Ohrenstein: Okay, I got it we're we're back we're back in business okay.

00:43:55.290 --> 00:43:55.770
Manfred Ohrenstein: So we asked.

00:43:55.980 --> 00:44:00.090
Jack Kliger: A lot about your dad What about your mom was she also very religious.

00:44:00.600 --> 00:44:02.370
Manfred Ohrenstein: Yes, very much so.

00:44:03.810 --> 00:44:12.120
Manfred Ohrenstein: We were, we were very orthodox family whatever and, to this day i'm not clear.

00:44:13.590 --> 00:44:22.260
Manfred Ohrenstein: Why, I veered from that and I i'm not i'm not unhappy about it i'm happy about it because.

00:44:23.580 --> 00:44:26.940
Manfred Ohrenstein: I feel i've been able to accomplish a great deal.

00:44:28.350 --> 00:44:54.300
Manfred Ohrenstein: But I I the religion, the religion itself was not what was motivating me what was motivating me is my jewishness my end and and and and one of these days I may write an article and or a book about the fact that.

00:44:55.470 --> 00:45:11.910
Manfred Ohrenstein: Israel started that the nation of Israel started in the year somewhere around 2010 before the common era for over 4000 years ago and that.

00:45:13.230 --> 00:45:16.440
Manfred Ohrenstein: We started as a country.

00:45:18.030 --> 00:45:35.310
Manfred Ohrenstein: That was organized way back 4000 years ago and we lost that existence for all, a variety of reasons, during the ensuing decades and millennia, but we're back.

00:45:36.150 --> 00:45:51.150
Manfred Ohrenstein: and Israel is back and the Jewish existence, not only as a religion, but as a political entity and a political force is there, I think we are.

00:45:52.170 --> 00:46:01.050
Manfred Ohrenstein: Israel is now one of the most important countries in the world in a in a in a very controversial area.

00:46:02.100 --> 00:46:03.120
Manfred Ohrenstein: But it is.

00:46:04.560 --> 00:46:06.420
Manfred Ohrenstein: It is it is functioning.

00:46:07.740 --> 00:46:17.370
Manfred Ohrenstein: As a an outpost of modern civilization and I am very, very proud of that, and I will continue to support that.

00:46:19.350 --> 00:46:24.600
Jack Kliger: that's great when well said, and so here's a picture of little friend orenstein.

00:46:27.900 --> 00:46:28.680
In the like the way.

00:46:29.880 --> 00:46:30.960
Manfred Ohrenstein: I say that.

00:46:31.170 --> 00:46:32.850
Jack Kliger: I will be a pull them out could have something.

00:46:34.980 --> 00:46:38.880
Jack Kliger: And you you you even have the stick then telling her.

00:46:40.710 --> 00:46:46.350
Manfred Ohrenstein: Certainly I said i'm seeing through looking at somebody at something very quizzically and.

00:46:47.430 --> 00:46:57.990
Manfred Ohrenstein: I was wondering i'm wondering why was preoccupied me but it's it sounds like me i'm just you know hey what is it i'm asking what is this all about maybe.

00:46:58.080 --> 00:46:59.610
Jack Kliger: Even then, you are an activist.

00:47:00.180 --> 00:47:00.750

00:47:02.160 --> 00:47:09.930
Jack Kliger: there's your parents taken in the in the 60s after they were here for a while that looks like it was at a at a wedding or about.

00:47:09.930 --> 00:47:10.140
Manfred Ohrenstein: My.

00:47:10.380 --> 00:47:12.780
Manfred Ohrenstein: Age oh yeah that was somebody's wedding.

00:47:13.530 --> 00:47:14.970
Jack Kliger: haha well.

00:47:15.450 --> 00:47:17.100
Manfred Ohrenstein: I don't remember we.

00:47:18.600 --> 00:47:21.330
Jack Kliger: thought of you with Eleanor Roosevelt in New York.

00:47:21.990 --> 00:47:41.790
Manfred Ohrenstein: Well, the the fact that, as a result of my political activities and the gentleman on the right side was a was at that point, a member of the Assembly, I forget his name for for a minute, he was a very distinguished.

00:47:42.840 --> 00:47:44.100
Manfred Ohrenstein: United States.

00:47:45.300 --> 00:47:56.970
Manfred Ohrenstein: American citizen and we we met Eleanor Roosevelt, and we worked with her, and that was.

00:47:58.140 --> 00:48:00.540
Manfred Ohrenstein: An extraordinary thing.

00:48:01.800 --> 00:48:05.250
Manfred Ohrenstein: To be identified with this woman.

00:48:06.660 --> 00:48:09.960
Manfred Ohrenstein: Who was an extraordinary individual.

00:48:10.470 --> 00:48:13.920
Manfred Ohrenstein: And I was able to spend several years.

00:48:14.970 --> 00:48:16.680
Manfred Ohrenstein: Working with her and helping her.

00:48:18.510 --> 00:48:22.590
Jack Kliger: Well, very impressive photograph and there you are, with another fairly.

00:48:22.860 --> 00:48:23.550
Well, as.

00:48:24.900 --> 00:48:38.430
Manfred Ohrenstein: Well, there was my candidate for President Unfortunately that was never to be because of the tragedy that that happened, but we are well on the way of.

00:48:39.390 --> 00:48:52.920
Manfred Ohrenstein: Having this Kennedy become President of the United States, it never happened because of the tragic events, but it was one of the great moments of my life.

00:48:54.270 --> 00:49:03.960
Jack Kliger: Well Fred, thank you for all of your comments and for being such a forceful not only witness to history, but I can tell you from the museum.

00:49:04.470 --> 00:49:20.550
Jack Kliger: That without your efforts this museum wouldn't be here and without your efforts, all of the efforts we've made on remembrance education and activism wouldn't be here, so thank you for so much for what we are and thank you for helping to make it happen.

00:49:21.120 --> 00:49:26.430
Manfred Ohrenstein: Now, now I want to thank you guys, for allowing me to this and.

00:49:26.970 --> 00:49:27.720
Jack Kliger: We didn't pay you.

00:49:28.020 --> 00:49:29.790
Manfred Ohrenstein: will do it till my dying.

00:49:31.290 --> 00:49:41.760
Jack Kliger: there'll be more of this Thank you Fred now are a time we have left them, but perhaps there are some questions that we can ask from the audience for Fred.

00:49:42.240 --> 00:49:46.530
Ari Goldstein: do have some audience questions and feel free to submit them in the zoom chat you haven't yet.

00:49:47.010 --> 00:49:51.270
Ari Goldstein: And Fred I want to start by reading a comment that was sent in by Rochelle side.

00:49:51.660 --> 00:50:01.020
Ari Goldstein: Who said Senator orenstein should also be commended for creating a permanent exhibit about rescue a Holocaust survivors to us way go at the New York state museum.

00:50:01.470 --> 00:50:12.210
Ari Goldstein: As well as for transferring the documents from the Nuremberg war crimes trial from the New York state library, to the museum and Jewish heritage with warm wishes from Shell side down wanted to make sure that.

00:50:13.140 --> 00:50:23.880
Jack Kliger: Thank you for those efforts Fred we didn't even cover that I get the feeling that, if we went deeper into it we'd have a list of a yard long of all the things you been able to accomplish.

00:50:24.570 --> 00:50:38.130
Ari Goldstein: here's a question from Yossi jarrett he says, you may remember me my grandmother fanny Piper bird was your father's sister and then he asks why did your family stop and Cologne when you were escaping Germany.

00:50:39.660 --> 00:50:41.940
Manfred Ohrenstein: Why would my family stop where.

00:50:42.270 --> 00:50:44.790
Ari Goldstein: It will own and how long were you there.

00:50:45.720 --> 00:51:07.440
Manfred Ohrenstein: We stopped in there, because my other grandmother, and my other uncle who was lived with my other grandmother they was still there and, fortunately, and we stopped by to say our goodbyes because we were literally on the way.

00:51:08.460 --> 00:51:35.850
Manfred Ohrenstein: To it to England and on the way later on to the United States, and so we stopped by to say them Fortunately they continued to stay and they got lost, and we have never been able to figure out what happened to them, we we share, we obviously fear the worst because we lost.

00:51:37.050 --> 00:51:40.200
Manfred Ohrenstein: any sign of them in the.

00:51:41.730 --> 00:51:42.450
Jack Kliger: ensuing you.

00:51:42.510 --> 00:51:44.820
Manfred Ohrenstein: Holocaust and the Holocaust years.

00:51:45.810 --> 00:51:53.670
Ari Goldstein: Now there's another question here about whether your some of your extended family went to South America, and if you know why they went, or if you stayed in touch.

00:51:54.660 --> 00:51:59.100
Manfred Ohrenstein: Well, that was my brother my uncle my my father's brother.

00:52:00.270 --> 00:52:20.160
Manfred Ohrenstein: He was of a different mind he he went there he tried at some point to get us to move there, which we are not willing to do, he came to the United States once in a while he was he was my.

00:52:23.460 --> 00:52:33.900
Manfred Ohrenstein: father's brother and someone who I we were just in touch with them, we were we were not very close.

00:52:35.880 --> 00:52:39.480
Ari Goldstein: And Fred I have a question which is your sister.

00:52:40.680 --> 00:52:44.460
Ari Goldstein: Who is up because she was all of the new with married, by the time and.

00:52:44.880 --> 00:52:52.650
Ari Goldstein: Have Chris on lock so she's she was deported to Poland and she was in Poland with her husband until 1941 and then she came and joined your family in New York.

00:52:53.010 --> 00:53:01.590
Ari Goldstein: Did she identify as a Holocaust survivor and you don't quite identify as a survivor right, but you would, how do you think about your identity and how did your sister.

00:53:04.830 --> 00:53:05.070
Manfred Ohrenstein: I.

00:53:06.420 --> 00:53:07.410
Manfred Ohrenstein: must say i'm.

00:53:08.640 --> 00:53:20.430
Manfred Ohrenstein: trying to figure out that i'm not having much luck and remembering exactly how that how that happened, oh no problem and.

00:53:20.700 --> 00:53:26.550
Ari Goldstein: here's a question from an audience Member, how can young people help keep the history of the Holocaust alive.

00:53:28.440 --> 00:53:44.640
Manfred Ohrenstein: Well that's easy get involved, because I get involved in in Jewish Jewish activities, we have a an extraordinary Jewish community in the United States.

00:53:46.260 --> 00:53:59.430
Manfred Ohrenstein: Some of it is very wealthy lot of people have modest incomes who are dedicated, so I think the the the Jewish community in this in this country.

00:54:00.510 --> 00:54:16.230
Manfred Ohrenstein: really deserves a lot of credit, we have people with all kinds of different viewpoints with regard to they relate to religion but, for the most part, not with regard to Israel and one of the.

00:54:18.510 --> 00:54:24.150
Manfred Ohrenstein: hallmarks of American Jewish life is is the support of Israel.

00:54:26.280 --> 00:54:27.810
Manfred Ohrenstein: they're all these.

00:54:29.040 --> 00:54:42.720
Manfred Ohrenstein: Questions about doing loyalties that's a bunch of bs there are loyalties and one can be loyal to many things without negating other parts of their loyalties.

00:54:43.110 --> 00:54:58.020
Manfred Ohrenstein: We are Americans, we are active Americans and very many institutions, we are also very dedicated to the State of Israel and the State of Israel.

00:54:58.920 --> 00:55:13.650
Manfred Ohrenstein: is becoming more and more powerful as we hoped it would be, it is, it is involved, it is existence in a very difficult area politically in a country which is split between Israel and.

00:55:14.310 --> 00:55:27.270
Manfred Ohrenstein: The Muslim countries, there is a lot of there are a lot of problems with them, but our support of Israel has to be there.

00:55:28.140 --> 00:55:36.780
Manfred Ohrenstein: Despite some of the disagreements, we may have in times, from time to time, I want to say this, Israel is a powerful country.

00:55:37.380 --> 00:55:51.240
Manfred Ohrenstein: powerful countries don't always do nice things no comma powerful country does not overstep their bounds from time to time, but that doesn't negate their.

00:55:51.990 --> 00:56:07.860
Manfred Ohrenstein: Their existence on their importance so to those in the Jewish community who sometimes worry about the the power from nature of the of the Israeli State I say.

00:56:09.480 --> 00:56:24.960
Manfred Ohrenstein: Look at the United States Look how the United States expanded from 13 colonies across a continent look at Israel stay in a in a controversial area.

00:56:26.100 --> 00:56:28.980
Manfred Ohrenstein: But building positively.

00:56:31.230 --> 00:56:58.260
Manfred Ohrenstein: Institutions that benefit humanity and its citizens, and who are continuing the question of working with people from the Muslim Muslims community in in in the geographic entity of visceral there's all these are difficult things, but they are not impossible, they continue to.

00:56:59.310 --> 00:57:03.300
Manfred Ohrenstein: This is a work that that has to continue and.

00:57:04.680 --> 00:57:15.390
Manfred Ohrenstein: I feel fortunate in being able to contribute my my knowledge of politics and world affairs and history to do that.

00:57:17.610 --> 00:57:26.160
Ari Goldstein: Thank you Fred we just have another minute here so i'm going to offer a closing comment and then ask each of you jack and Fred if you have a closing message to share.

00:57:27.270 --> 00:57:35.130
Ari Goldstein: Mine is just to thank you Fred for for for sharing a little bit of your past with us today and for your leadership at the museum to everyone watching.

00:57:35.520 --> 00:57:40.890
Ari Goldstein: All of our programs at the museum, including this one are only possible because of donor support so.

00:57:41.130 --> 00:57:51.240
Ari Goldstein: If you have supported the museum, we thank you, and if you haven't we asked you to consider making a donation or becoming a Member to support the critical Holocaust education, work that we do.

00:57:51.540 --> 00:57:54.720
Ari Goldstein: you'll see in the zoom chat a link to support the museum's work.

00:57:54.960 --> 00:58:06.660
Ari Goldstein: As well as a link to discover our upcoming events, and we have two to three programs, so we include another one tomorrow, so we We thank you for tuning in today and now i'll turn to jack and then to Fred for some closing comments.

00:58:08.160 --> 00:58:15.990
Jack Kliger: Well, thank you IRA and thank you Fred I do want to say to the person who asked happen younger people get involved.

00:58:16.380 --> 00:58:30.390
Jack Kliger: By all means the Museum has all sorts of programs that we want help with we have a young friends group we're looking for future generations, if there was a theme that I could say about this.

00:58:31.140 --> 00:58:43.380
Jack Kliger: Discussion it's talking about stories that survived not necessarily a survivor but a story about survival and renewal and activism.

00:58:43.980 --> 00:58:54.060
Jack Kliger: And so I would just say Fred you you, you came from a very difficult background, you took advantage of the opportunities country has given you and you've.

00:58:54.450 --> 00:59:08.130
Jack Kliger: Given back so much to us, so this is a way of thinking not only you and hearing more your story, but also the I dedicate this this program to the memory Marcus orenstein.

00:59:09.660 --> 00:59:11.070
Jack Kliger: read any final words.

00:59:11.910 --> 00:59:27.030
Manfred Ohrenstein: Well, I thought I thank you for that I think my ability my my my opportunity to be part of the creation of the Museum in the form in which it's in the activists form in which this.

00:59:27.510 --> 00:59:53.130
Manfred Ohrenstein: has been one of the great accomplishments of my life, and I will continue to do that, we have a lot of we have a big role to play in this very, very complex world, and we have a big role to play in the future of Israel, which exists in a very complex part of the world and we.

00:59:55.950 --> 01:00:07.590
Manfred Ohrenstein: Do these are big powerful movements and power, as I said before, a few minutes ago, sometimes seems to be.

01:00:09.480 --> 01:00:21.810
Manfred Ohrenstein: controversial and sometimes even to do things which we don't particularly like, but we have to be we Jews have to be comfortable with power.

01:00:23.970 --> 01:00:38.250
Manfred Ohrenstein: We have to stop being afraid of being persecuted, we have been persecuted, we have done things, particularly the creation of Israel to answer that in a very positive way.

01:00:40.350 --> 01:00:43.680
Manfred Ohrenstein: It requires a lot of wisdom and a lot of.

01:00:45.630 --> 01:00:50.100
Manfred Ohrenstein: A lot of sometimes difficult activities but.

01:00:51.390 --> 01:01:06.750
Manfred Ohrenstein: That has that should be a challenge to us an opportunity to us, and it certainly is for me and i'm grateful of working with all of you guys at the museum, I think that the fact that we were together able to.

01:01:07.170 --> 01:01:15.390
Manfred Ohrenstein: To build this wonderful wonderful institution is something I will be proud of, for the rest of my days.

01:01:16.380 --> 01:01:29.130
Jack Kliger: Thank you Fred Thank you IRA and thank you to all of the people who listened in and have continued to support the efforts of the museum and good heretic a living memorial to the Holocaust.

01:01:29.910 --> 01:01:32.010
Ari Goldstein: To Thank you everyone have a good afternoon.

01:01:32.850 --> 01:01:33.810
Manfred Ohrenstein: Good afternoon.