Temple students help share Holocaust survivors’ stories

Stories That Live, an organization that connects college students and local Holocaust survivors, selected eight students to create visual projects detailing survivors’ experiences.

David Tuck, a Holocaust survivor, holds up a book with photos of him and his wife. The quote underneath states, “If you have life, you have hope.” | MICHELLE POTTER / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Three loaves of bread in varying portion sizes sat on plates atop a table in Morgan Hall on Wednesday night.

The first held a large loaf of bread and pieces of fruit — enough to share. The next held a single slice of bread, while the third sat empty.

The art installation told the story of Manya Perel, who survived eight concentration camps in the Holocaust, during which six million people died at the hands of Nazi Germany during World War II. The progression symbolized the different amounts of food Perel had access to throughout her life and illustrated the food scarcity she experienced in the concentration camps.

Danielle Brodsky, a sophomore sociology and Spanish major who created the artwork, was featured in an exhibition hosted by Stories That Live at Temple University. She was part of a fellowship program in which students showcase projects that tell the stories of local Holocaust survivors.

Wednesday night’s exhibition featured Brodsky’s piece, “Heat, Flour, Salted Water,” alongside eight other works from fellows, who were selected in partnership with Chabad at Temple. Stories That Live connects local Holocaust survivors with college students.

The selected Temple students met several times with Holocaust survivors to create projects telling their experiences, such as compilations of poetry, documentary-style videos and photos with accompanying text.

Chaviva Galepo, the student manager of the fellowship, said the event couldn’t have gone better.

“The projects are incredible,” Galepo said. “I was left speechless. I really could not have asked for better fellows.”

When creating her project, Brodsky took note of Perel’s constant return to what she ate.

“[Perel’s] entire story focused on bread and different foods, so I thought that was a really important theme,” Brodsky said.

Brodsky said she was grateful to connect with Perel, whose story included a run-in with physician Josef Mengele, a Nazi doctor who rose to infamy for his torturous experiments on prisoners in concentration camps. Brodsky said throughout the story, it was clear Perel always found a way to help the people close to her, as well as strangers.

“This is her life dedication,” Brodsky said. “All she does is speak about her experience, so immediately we were able to know everything that she’s been through. It was really heartbreaking and inspiring and a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

The event also featured speaker and Holocaust survivor Ronnie Breslow, a Jewish woman from Germany, who attempted to escape on the S.S. St. Louis, which traveled from Germany to Cuba in 1939 but was ultimately turned away and forced to return to Europe.

Ronnie Breslow, a Holocaust survivor, shares her story at an exhibition hosted by Stories That Live in Morgan Hall on Wednesday. | MICHELLE POTTER / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Fellows and attendees at the event listened to Breslow’s story about her escape from Nazi Germany aboard the S.S. St. Louis, which was meant to transport 900 Jewish refugees to safety. Breslow was 8 years old when she and her mother boarded the luxury ship to meet her father, who arrived in Cuba a few months earlier.

When the ship reached Havana, however, the Jewish men and women on board were not allowed into the country. In a conflict that received international press, the ship’s telegrams to various countries — including the United States — were ignored.

“We passed the Miami coastline so close that every passenger could easily see the lights of Miami Beach,” Breslow remembered.

The captain eventually managed to split the passengers between England, Holland, Belgium and France and give them sanctuary. Breslow was one of 181 passengers sent to a detention center in Holland.

Breslow said she publically shares her story because she wants to preserve the freedom offered to her in the United States after her family finally settled in Philadelphia’s Germantown neighborhood in 1939. She added she’s thankful for her luck in being able to come to the United States.

“We really have to remain very vigilant with this precious gift called freedom in this country, because all of us know that freedom is not really free,” Breslow said.  

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