Holocaust Commission educates and remembers with the publication of To Life: The Past Is Present

by | Feb 23, 2023 | Trending News

The cover of To Life: The Past is Present.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day was observed this year by United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s Holocaust Commission with the publication of To Life: The Past Is Present, Holocaust Stories of Hampton Roads Survivors, Liberators, and Rescuers.

This collection of stories is the updated version of To Life: Stories of Courage and Survival published in 2002. At that time, the 67 accounts were the largest collection of Holocaust stories that had ever been gathered in Tidewater. Reba Karp, editor emeritus of Jewish News, started gathering these stories from the Holocaust survivor community in the early 1980s. Many had not been written until she recorded them.

Twenty years later, with antisemitic rhetoric and hate crimes rising at alarming levels, the Holocaust Commission felt it imperative to reimagine this collection for the 21st century.

Originally meant to be a revision, the project blossomed into a much larger endeavor. An enthusiastic community of dozens of people helped shepherd the second book. Many of the survivors’ families generously shared more memories and photos, locally and from as far away as Jerusalem and the states of Washington and Arkansas. Two historians reviewed the book and many editors and proofreaders helped to fine-tune the copy.

The goal was to update the original stories, as well as to discover others that had never been collected. The 90-plus stories in this new volume offer a rich window into Holocaust history, representing survivors, liberators, and rescuers from both the Southside and the Peninsula.

Making certain these stories are always present in Tidewater was paramount. However, as the book progressed, adding more content to contextualize the stories and create an educational resource also became a priority. The addition of hundreds of photos, 50 historical notes, several maps, and a more detailed glossary nearly doubled the original content of the first book. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Yad Vashem, and the USC Shoah Foundation, among many other institutions, contributed research and assistance. The audience is both readers who are familiar with Holocaust history, as well as those who are not.

In the coming months, 18 podcasts will complement 18 stories from To Life: The Past Is Present. The podcasts will be available on educational and mainstream platforms, with additional installments planned after this offering.

The books are available for purchase through the Holocaust Commission, which also plans to donate hundreds of copies of these stories to schools, libraries, and community groups. All proceeds from the sale of the books support the Holocaust Commission’s educational outreach programs.

For more information, visit
www.holocaustcommission.org, or contact Elka Mednick, Holocaust Commission director, at emednick@ujft.org.

Wendy Auerbach and Gail Flax are both long time members of the Holocaust Commission. Just prior to the pandemic, they began overseeing the project of updating To Life.

Wendy Juren Aurebach and Gail Flax