I am a Holocaust survivor from Czechoslovakia and a documentary film director.
My career as a filmmaker has taken me all over the world and has brought me in contact with many remarkable people. Being among the few lucky ones who survived along with my immediate family, I’d always hoped that some day I’d be able to use my skills as a communicator and do my part in teaching the lessons of the Holocaust.
Lauren and her grandfather, Paul Galan
Three years ago I began volunteering as a docent and speaker at the Holocaust Museum and Study Center in Rockland County, N.Y. This has enabled me to do a great deal of public speaking to students and adults throughout the Hudson Valley and northern New Jersey. Two years ago, through the auspices of the museum, I participated in the March of the Living in Poland and Israel. I produced a ‘8-minute documentary of our journey entitled "Saying Kaddish for Six Million."
Yet, while being able to speak to hundreds of children about my Holocaust survival, I did not know how to broach the same subject with my 1′-year-old granddaughter, Lauren.
In April of this year I was the keynote speaker at the Yom HaShoah commemoration at the JCC on the Palisades. My daughter, Leslie Newman, and Lauren, who live in Tenafly, attended the event, and for the first time ever Lauren heard the story of my survival.
In May, Lauren mentioned to me that her sixth-grade class was studying the Holocaust at Tenafly Middle School and she and her teacher invited me to come and speak to the class. Of course I was quite excited by the prospect and I felt, for the first time, that I may have touched something within her during the Yom HaShoah presentation. Little did I know how profoundly she was moved by the experience.
At the end of my speech Lauren came up and read the following poem to me:
Where I’m From
By Lauren Newman
I’m from running.
From wherever I was
I’m from being ahead.
Small steps ahead.
Ahead of the Nazis,
Ahead of Death.
I’m from Christmas trees
That once saved my life,
That warned us to run.
I’m from don’t fall asleep,
You will die.
I’m from that snowstorm,
On the mountain.
I’m from closing my weary eyes,
And being jerked awake.
Don’t fall asleep. You will die
You will die
But I’m also from the march of the living.
I am alive.
I’ve spent my entire professional life crafting stories to touch people’s emotions, and from the mind and creative talents of a 1′-year-old came this vivid creative expression that captured the essence of my story of survival. I’m still moved to the core of my being each time I read Lauren’s poem.
I share this experience with Jewish Standard readers, for I believe that our children must know the truth about that horrible event in our history because when all of us, the survivors, are gone, it will be the next generation’s responsibility to remind the world that such horror cannot, should not, and will not happen again.
I’m proud to know that my granddaughter, Lauren Newman, is also a talented storyteller and has already taken the first step to do her part in what her generation has a responsibility to carry on.