When you listen to a witness, you become a witness
– Elie Wiesel 

 

Overview

Adopt a Survivor is a program “to preserve and perpetuate the N’shamah – the soul and spirit of shoah Survivors.” It was conceived in 1998 by Irving Roth, a Survivor from Long Island, who now directs the Holocaust Resource Center of Manhasset. The program, brought to UJC MetroWest in 2001, pairs a Survivor with one or more students. The student(s) become familiar with the Survivor’s life before, during, and after the Holocaust in order to tell that Survivor’s story in a public venue in the year 2045, a hundred years after the liberation of Auschwitz. 

Guidelines

Supervising Educator/Teacher 

This project must be supervised by a teacher within an educational environment. The student’s report of the experience of a particular Survivor may be used as the focus of a report or research project for a grade or for community service credit. 

Teachers will identify student candidates. In cases where candidates volunteer to adopt a Survivor, the teacher must assess the viability of the candidate (adopter.) 

Minimal considerations should include: 

  • Is the student knowledgeable about the Holocaust? 
  • Is the student stable and mature? 
  • Does the student have a respectable GPA? 
  • Will the student have parental support for this project? 

The teacher will receive five (5) professional development hours for each student’s completed report. Teachers may offer credit or extra credit to students who engage in this project. It may be necessary for the teacher to get permission in writing from the principal or supervisor or to have her/him sign off on the contracts and consent forms. The Supervising Educator may adjust the contract and consent forms to fit the particular needs of the student and the situation. 

Students 

Students must agree to meet a Survivor a minimum of four (4) times. Meetings can take place within the school, in a neutral setting such as the Alex Aidekman Family Jewish Community Campus in Whippany, and/or in the Survivor’s home. A minimum of two meetings should take place in the Survivor’s home and/or place of business. If possible, one of these meetings should be videotaped and copies made available to the Survivor and to the Holocaust Council of Greater MetroWest. 

Students must agree to keep journals of their meetings. While some of these notes may be personal reflections, the teacher and Federation will receive copies of the portions of interview notes the student wishes to share. These portions should include the factual materials of the interviews that become future references for the student. The students should let the Survivor see the report before the final copy is prepared. In addition to the teacher’s copy, the final written report must be submitted to Holocaust Council of Greater MetroWest with a copy for the Survivor. 

Federation will archive copies of the interview notes as well as the videos and will have them available as back-up materials for the 2045 talk. 

Student must sign a contract. Click here to view a sample contract.

Students must have signed parental consent. Click here to view a sample consent form. In cases where parents are expected to drive their child to the Survivor’s home or business for the interview, the parents must be made aware that this is their commitment as well as their child’s. 

As an aid in commencing the interview, we recommend that the student approach each of the interviews with a set of questions that explore a different aspect of the Survivor’s life. Students should realize that four hours is hardly enough time to learn someone’s history. The prepared questions will ensure that the most important aspects of the Survivor’s story will be addressed. Should the parties decide that they want to spend more time together, the Survivor will be able to provide more detail. Minimally, the students should ask:

  • How would the Survivor like to be addressed? Mr./Mrs.? First Name? 
  • Place and date of birth. This should be followed up by consulting an atlas and an encyclopedia or use internet resources for a historic and geographical perspective of the Survivor’s country.
  • Lifestyle of the Jews in general and the Survivor’s family, in particular 
  • Details concerning siblings, parents, and grandparents, with specific anecdotes where applicable
  • Religious, social, educational, and economic life of the Jewish and non-Jewish community
  • Details of the Survivor’s life from earliest recollection to the beginning of the Holocaust
  • Experiences during the Holocaust
  • Liberation, return to home, D.P. camp, waiting to emigrate
  • Life in a new land – family – profession

Click here for a list of additional suggested questions.

Additional Recommendations

  • Student should bring a camera to each interview to make her/his own photographic record. 
  • Student should ask to see photographs of the Survivor’s pre-war and post-war life. 
  • Some Survivors have heavy accents. The students should not hesitate to ask the Survivor to clarify any remarks that he or she does not understand. 
  • If, for whatever reason, the student finds him/herself uncomfortable with the Survivor or any of the interviews he/she should report it immediately to the teacher who will then contact the Holocaust Council. 
  • Ask the Survivors to describe their feelings? What were their concerns at the moment? What were their feelings afterwards? 
  • Remember that older people can be forgetful. If your adoptee repeats an anecdote, he or she has already told you, be prepared to say in a gentle, respectful way, “I remember that. Will you please tell me about another experience.” 

Recommended Readings

 Alicia: My Story by Alicia Jurman Applebaum, Bantam Paperback

Night by Elie Wiesel

Stones in Water by Donna Jo Napoli: Dutton, 1997

We are Witnesses by Jacob Boas: Scholastic, Teenage Diaries

Escape or Die: True Stories of Young People Who Survived the Holocaust by Ina R. Friedman: Addison-Wesley

 

Recommended Viewing

  • Auschwitz: If You Cried You Died: Two Survivors relive their teenage experience in Auschwitz; accompanied by teacher’s guide. Contact: Impact America Foundation, (317) 848-5134. 

 

Reference Materials