Survivors-Victors…Honoring a Very Special Group of Individuals

We’ve seen the movies, watched the documentaries, read the countless books and studied the history of the holocaust in school. It is period in modern history that is compelling, disturbing, and downright difficult to make sense of; yet the systematic slaughter of 6 million Jews and other innocent humans under Hitler’s regime took place 70 years ago.

I’ve had a personal interest in this tragic slice of history most of my life and have tried to pass that concern and interest on to my students for as long as I have been teaching by introducing them to various novels focused on that subject. Two years ago, I was able to take two busloads of students in to downtown Dallas for a visit to the Holocaust Museum upon completing the novel that I read to them every year. I took my second group down there last month. But it’s not the artifacts, photos, and other items of interest on exhibit that inspired these trips. It was the opportunity for my students to sit at the feet of some living survivors of the death camps who personally share their own stories with thousands of kids every year. They still bear the tattoos that Nazi soldiers engraved upon their arms. They’ve seen atrocities, as young kids, that few of us can fathom.

I’ve written about this in my blog on earlier occasions and recently mentioned having been granted a special opportunity to come photograph an annual event in Dallas known as Yom Hashoa where a group of about 50 living survivors in the Dallas area meet at a synagogue for a night of remembrance. It was a day I will never forget. And while I was in a ‘camera-guy-picture-taking-mode’ for most of the day, I came home from this with a new perspective and insight on how I view these individuals.

It is easy sometimes, after all the reading and film viewing of this piece of history, to view those who actually survived the holocaust, asĀ  ‘victims’ – tormented souls who lived through such a nightmare. But I can personally testify that when you sit down and visit with these remarkable people, you don’t come away seeing them as victims, but rather as Victors! They are colorful, animated, passionate people who have gone on to live fulfilling and productive lives. They had families, successful businesses and even now, in the twilight season of their lives, they so eagerly desire to share their stories to upcoming generations with the hopes that none of us ever forget what can happen when the seeds of hatred are left to spread.

There is still so much I could write about this, but for now…let me leave you with some snapshots of my day amongst an elite group of humans who will sadly, not be around with us much longer as nature takes it’s course.

(click on the photo to view a collection of photos)