Teaneck High students to collect Holocaust names and memories
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Teaneck High students to collect Holocaust names and memories

Classic Residence invites survivors to present testimony for Yad Vashem database

Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial and museum in Jerusalem, wants to add the name of every Jew killed in the Holocaust to its Central Database of Shoah Victims Names, which currently holds information on 3 million names.

On Sunday, area survivors and others with knowledge of Holocaust victims will have the chance to add names and biographical details to the database at the Classic Residence in Teaneck, where more than a dozen Teaneck High School students will be on hand to help record the data.

In the morning, the students will interview residents of the senior home; in the afternoon, they will help anyone in the community who knows the names of relatives or friends who perished in the Holocaust to fill out forms to be submitted to Yad Vashem.

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Herta Mieses is pictured with Yad Vashem testimony pages at Classic Residence in Teaneck. “An uncle I loved very much was killed in Auschwitz,” she said. “He was born in Vienna and then he moved to Gdansk. My grandmother never found out. After the war, my father wrote letters to her in his brother’s name and sent them to Poland to be mailed to her. She never knew that he died. It would have been too upsetting for her.”

“If there is a person alive who survived, she must have known people along the way who didn’t make it,” Pearl Markovitz, a volunteer at the Teaneck High School’s Holocaust center, told the 13 students who gathered in the cafeteria last Thursday for an introduction to the project.

Only three of the students had previously spoken with Holocaust survivors. Most of the students who volunteered to conduct interviews are not Jewish and are taking a course on the history of the Holocaust as a social studies elective.

“Our teacher said you can come and interview Holocaust survivors,” said Dare Ayorinde, 17, a junior.

“I’m not used to speaking to elderly folks,” he said. “It’s a very delicate subject. I don’t want to be too pushy, I don’t want them to step outside their comfort zone. At the same time I want them to say what needs to be said.”

Robin Granat, the executive director of Classic Residence, warned the students that taking testimony from the survivors will probably be an emotional process, for both the survivor and the student.

“Tears are there for a reason,” she said. “They help them heal.”

“You are the last folks who are going to speak directly to survivors,” Granat told the high school students. “Your children are never going to get a firsthand account of what happened during the Holocaust. By virtue of your age, you have a significant responsibility here to pass something on to future generations.”

Granat became involved in gathering names for Yad Vashem while in Israel two years ago. Learning about the names recovery campaign, she realized that at the residence for seniors, she was “sitting on an environment rich in history,” as many people who live there might have known people who died in the Holocaust whose names had not yet been entered into the database.

Realizing that the mission is urgent “because the residents are older and are not going to be with us that long,” she sat down with 20 residents and filled out a “Page of Testimony” for each victim they remembered. She then passed the forms on to Yad Vashem.

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Teaneck High School student Dare Ayorinde will be among the students gathering testimony about Holocaust victims Sunday. Jennifer Pinto/Teaneck Patch

Yad Vashem began collecting such forms in the 1950s. Much more recently, it has made the data available online, where the database can be searched by name and location. Users can see whether victims they know about are already in the database or not. The online report links to the original page of testimony.

In assembling the list of names, Yad Vashem has also included German records, such as lists of deportations.

The database also accepts photos. Survivors or others planning on attending Sunday’s session at Classic Residence can bring pictures they have of the victims whose data they will be recording. The pictures will be scanned and immediately returned, Granat promises, and the scans will be transmitted to Yad Vashem.

Who, What, When, Where
What: Collecting data on Holocaust victims for Yad Vashem database of Shoah victims’ names, with the assistance of Teaneck High students

Who: Survivors or others with knowledge of Holocaust victims

Where: Classic Residence, 655 Pomander Walk, Teaneck

When: Sunday, May 22, 1-3 p.m.

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