Tag Archives: Holocaust Museum

Through a mother’s eyes

Imagine yourself the mother of two young sons, struggling to protect your family from a government that’s deemed you worthy of death. Today, as we recognize Holocaust Remembrance Day, I’m especially mindful of mothers who’ve lived in such a world.

With each passing year, some folks find it easier to equate the Holocaust with a mere historical event — forgetting the families whose lives were forever changed by the twisted terror of Nazi Germany. Today I’m putting a face on those families — thanks to Harold Minuskin, who lives in Northern Arizona.

Minuskin and his younger brother survived the Holocaust while many in their midst perished. Much of their journey is recounted by mother Sonia Minuskin’s memoirs, translated and annotated by Harold Minuskin.

I’ve been reading “My Children, My Heroes: Memoirs of a Holocaust Mother” this week — grateful for the window it opens into the lives of Jewish parents and children during Hitler’s time in power.

Minuskin’s son Harold has translated and annotated his mother’s recollections and reflections, written mostly in Yiddish, about life during the Holocaust. Sonia Minuskin died Nov. 7, 2008 at the age of 102.

Our daughter Jennifer met Minuskin last November, and thoughtfully asked him to sign a copy of the book — which became a cherished birthday gift not long after.

We think we face tough choices today. Which preschool to pick. What foods to feed our family. Where to spend vacations. How to save money for college. But Minuskin’s mother faced harder decisions by far.

They’re eloquently revealed in the pages of Minuskin’s work, despite her insistence that “language is too poor or inadequate to write and to tell you what I went through with my dear ones.”

“It was in the year 1939 when the Germans first entered our small town of Zhetel,” she writes. “The Germans began by asking us for all our good and possessions.” Jews weren’t allowed to use sidewalks or transportation, and were ordered to wear a yellow Star of David.

Her memoir recounts “the panic of the young children in the laps of their mothers,” and shares that parents who considered suicide had to ask themselves this question: “First the children, or first the adults?”

When their village was surrounded on April 6, 1942, Minuskin and her children ran to a backyard hiding place under the toilet. “My children survived,” she writes, “on a lick of sugar that I remembered to bring with me.” Later they escaped to a nearby forest, which was home until their liberation by the Russian army in 1944.

Maybe today we can all fret a little less about white versus wheat and stripes versus solids — pausing instead to remember both those who perished and those who survived the Holocaust. And making our way in the world ever mindful of ways we can stop and prevent such horrors.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about Holocaust Remembrance Day, search for remembrance events in your area or watch a live broadcast of the national remembrance ceremony. Click here for information about the Phoenix Holocaust Survivors’ Association, and here to explore Holocaust-related materials from Yad Vashem in Israel.

Coming up: Exloring the Anne Frank Center in NYC, Bringing a Holocaust museum to Arizona


National Days of Remembrance

"Never Again" Sign at the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site

Update: Click here to watch video of the May 17 national remembrance ceremony at the U.S. Capitol, which was broadcast live on the USHMM website. The ceremony included remarks by Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, who spoke of how “human compassion was out of fashion” during the Holocaust, and Isreal ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren, who shared that remembering alone is never enough — because goodness must be “galvanized by action.” Other speakers included U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, who spoke about justice and the law, and USHMM director Sara Bloomfield. Click here to follow Twitter comments on this ceremony.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. has been charged by the United States Congress with leading our country’s national commemoration of the Holocaust.

This year’s Holocaust remembrance week is May 1-8. The theme is “Justice and Accountability in the Face of Genocide: What Have We Learned?” But you don’t need to visit D.C. to participate.

Observances are being held by state and local governments, military bases, workplaces, schools, synagogues and civic centers throughout the country, according to the USHMM.

Arizona events include the “CMS 3rd Annual Days of Remembrance Community Event” in Cottonwood — taking place Thurs, May 5, at 6pm at Cottonwood Middle School. Students will open the event “by sharing their published books about genocide and the Holocaust.”

A special USHMM program titled “Life After Death: Holocaust Survivors in the Postwar World” takes place that same evening in Scottsdale. It features Mark Roseman, Ph.D. , the Museum’s 2010-11 Ina Levine Invitational Scholar and the Pat M. Glazer Chair in Jewish Studies at Indiana University Bloomington.

Roseman will “explore the trajectories that survivors’ lives took after World War II and how popular perceptions of the survivor became central to the late 20th-century consciousness” at 6:30pm at the Ina Levine Jewish Community Campus in Scottsdale. RSVP by May 2 to Gerry Hoch at 972-490-6300 or southwest@ushmm.org.

Visit the website for Jewish News of Greater Phoenix for additional information about Holocaust remembrance and related events. If your organization is hosting an event, please share details by commenting below to let our readers know.

Click here to share a comment on the USHMM website about how you plan to remember the Holocaust this week, here to watch a webcast of the May 17 commemoration at the U.S. Capitol and here to learn how you can participate in a virtual names reading ceremony remembering victims of the Holocaust.

If you’re looking for additional information about Holocaust remembrance for children and teens, read “Remember and Act: Engaging children in social justice” in the May 2011 issue of Raising Arizona Kids magazine.

The article ends with the following reflection: Memory is never passive, and silence never neutral. We must remember, we must remain vigilant and every one of us must act.

— Lynn

Note: Information about the Holocaust, as well as Holocaust remembrance, is also available from Yad Vashem in Israel. Click here to learn more about “Jewish American Heritage Month,” celebrated in May.

Coming up: Bringing a Holocaust museum to the Valley

Art meets egghead

Now you can enjoy great art in museums, books and online exhibitions

I’ve been meaning for some time to explore a bit of the new Google “Art Project” that allows visitors to tour various museums and enjoy close-ups of more than 1,000 artworks.

This morning I fired up my laptop to discover the Google logo decked out in sculpture by Romanian artist Constantin Brancusi (1876-1957), considered by many a father of modern art.

The first thing I noticed was the egg-shaped appearance of some of the works — an observation that surely betrays my lack of sophistication in this realm of the art world. But, hey — we all have to start somewhere.

I’ve toured several of the world’s great museums, including those of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. My favorites include the British Museum in London and the Louvre in Paris.

For museums not featured in the Google Art Project, there are always books and airplane tickets

Though I can’t tour them anew using Google’s “Art Project,” I can “visit” two other museums high on my list of favorites — including the Uffizi Gallery in Florence (one of my favorite European cities) and the Museum of Modern Art in NYC.

You don’t even want to know my reaction to learning while my husband was back East with Lizabeth recently that they’d made it one day to the NYC M & M factory but not the MoMA. (I calmed a bit, but only a bit, after he explained that only one of the two is open on Mondays.)

If I kept a “bucket list,” it would likely include touring the many art museums of Chicago, plus museums in several regions of California from Los Angeles to San Francisco.

I’m also ever so eager to tour the National Museum of the American Indian and the Newseum in D.C. — home to another personal favorite, the United States Holocaust Memorial and Museum.

The Google Art Project features museums in America and abroad

Google’s “Art Project” features museums in several cities (sometimes more than one museum in a single city) — including Amsterdam, Berlin, London, Madrid, St. Petersburg and others.

Visitors to the Google “Art Project” are met with two immediate choices — viewing artwork or exploring a museum.

The “create an artwork collection” feature allows folks to create personalized online collections complete with comments, and to share their collections with others.

While I’d rather Valley families explore our local museums, youth theaters and other performing arts venues during the long President’s Day weekend — I have to admit that the Google “Art Project” makes for a mighty fine “plan B” for those who prefer to sit out the rainstorms.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, MA — and here to learn about our very own Phoenix Art Museum

Coming up: Classic tales (and tails) come to Scottsdale theaters

Musings on “gypsy” music

I’m as guilty as the next person.

I hear the word “gypsy” and I make all kinds of assumptions. But unlike the stereotypes held by so many others throughout history, my stereotypes aren’t negative.

They’re idealized, even romanticized.

I remember buying Jennifer a book of ‘gypsy fairy tales’ when she was in elementary school.

It was part of a series that included fairy tales from many countries–Russia, Ireland and more.

Jennifer, who now studies cultural anthroplogy and history at ASU in Tempe, has always been fascinated with India–its culture, its people, its religion.

The flag above, similar in some ways to the flag of India, has been adopted by the World Romani Congress.

Many trace the history of gypsies, described by most scholars as “Romani,” to India during the Middle Ages, though some trace their origins back much farther or to other regions such as modern-day Pakistan or Iran.

I’m eager to learn more about the topic–which landed on my radar when I discovered that a musical group called “Parno Graszt” (pictured at left) will be performing this weekend at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix.

They’re described as “Hungary’s #1 Gypsy Folk Band”–and have been performing “traditional gypsy music and dancing” for two decades.

I sometimes consider myself a bit of a gypsy simply because I moved a great deal as a child–from state to state and city to city–with a single mother I now think of as having some sort of a wanderlust.

But one of the first tidbits I uncovered while putting a mere tip of one toe in the ocean of historical and mythological information about these peoples is that they aren’t necessarily nomadic.

Those who study the Roma differ in their opinions of just how essential nomadicism is, and was, to their way of life.

Were I still a homeschooling parent, I’d be all over this topic (including the Romani alphabet at left).

It promises so many paths to explore–from the nature of historical research to the horrific outcomes of ignorance and intolerance.

I hope you’ll make time to enjoy the richness of musical experiences offered by the MIM–including the performance art of “Parno Graszt.”

But don’t leave it there.

Let the music inspire you to do a bit of your own musing on Romani art and culture.

I’ve located several resources for those of you who want to join me on this journey of discovery:

Amnesty International USA at www.amnestyusa.org. This organization offers information on human rights news, policy and advocacy regarding many cultures and countries–including the Roma. Website features info on “Artists for Amnesty.”

Dosta! at www.dosta.org. This website offers information on the “Dosta!” (“Enough!”) campaign against anti-Roma discrimation–and resources such as Romani museums and contemporary Romani musicians.

Museum of Romani Culture (Muzeum romske kultury) at www.rommuz.cz. This museum in the Czech Republic offers information on Roma history, culture, music (hudba), children’s activities and more.

Romani.org at www.romani.org. This website offers information on Roma history, stereotypes, persecution, dance, music (including discography) and more.

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum at www.ushmm.org. This D.C.-based museum offers information on various groups persecuted and murdered by the Nazi regime, including the Roma. The website features “Music of the Holocaust” information and recordings (including Roma music from Auschwitz).

University of Minnesota Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at www.chgs.umn.edu. This academic center offers information on Roma history and culture–as well as poignant images of the persecution of Roma (including the above photo of a couple at the Belzec extermination camp).

Voice of Roma at www.voiceofroma.com. This California-based non-profit offers information on Roma music, dance, film, culture and human rights.

I’ll never be anything close to an expert in Romani culture, but I can certainly look beyond the limits of my own time and place.

I can learn more.

I can do more.

I can be more.

And music is a great place to start…


Note: Click here to read the official statement of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on International Roma Day (April 8, 2010)

Coming up: Roundup of weekend art offerings in the Valley, which include the third staged reading of Phoenix Theatre’s 13th annual Hormel New Works Festival–featuring Nathan Sanders’ “Divine Fruit/Kundalini Rising” directed by William Partlien. It’s the perfect pick for mature teen and adult audiences interested in issues of multiculturalism, religion and gay rights.

Giving back to and through Valley arts organizations

Depending on which holiday/s you celebrate, you may find family traditions such as gift-giving sneaking up on you all too quickly. A couple of things to remember as you search for ways to create special holiday experiences…

First, attending performances together with family and friends can yield the greatest gift of all: memories.

Second, every gift matters–and seemingly small actions taken by a multitude of people can have a huge impact.

“Never doubt,” reflected American cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead (1901-1978), “that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

This quote has special meaning because, although I’m certain I’d heard it many times before, it struck me for the first time during a visit to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

In this spirit, I’m delighted to share an update to our original blog (posted 11-24-09) on ways to give back during the holiday season.

Please let us know if you’ve discovered another way–no matter how great or small–to give back to, or through, Valley arts organizations.

Arizona Jewish Theatre Company. Online auction to benefit their education department. Auction runs through December 11th—which means you can enjoy holiday shopping from home and help Valley kids enjoy great theater!

Art Awakenings. Purchase holidays cards featuring original artwork to “support empowerment and recovery” for youth and adults living with mental illness.

Childsplay. Buy a teddy bear (donated by Build-a-Bear) sporting a handcrafted sweater by Tempe fiber artist Sonja Faeroy Saar to benefit their Benjamin Fund, which provides free tickets to organizations working with underprivileged youth or youth with disabilities.

Free Arts of Arizona. Buy gift bows (made of authentic movie trailers) while supplies last at Harkins Theatres to benefit arts programs for abused, homeless and at-risk youth.

Greasepaint Youtheatre. Receive $2 off your ticket price to Oliver! for all remaining performances when you donate an item at the show for the St. Mary’s Food Bank holiday drive.

Theater Works. Bring an unwrapped toy for the Peoria Fire Fighters toy drive or a bag of non-perishable food items for the Valley View Community Food Bank when you attend their Dec. 16th Christmas Concert to receive one coupon redeemable for a $5 discount on a future performance.

Valley Youth Theatre. Help support Operation Noah by bringing a new stuffed animal to donate at any remaining performance of A Winnie-the-Pooh Christmas Tail. Donated animals go to children who are in the hospital.

Note: Please comment below if you know of other opportunities to give back to, or through, Valley arts organizations. Many thanks!