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Holocaust Survivors Remember So Others Don’t Forget

Holocaust survivor Henry Slucki left John Burroughs High School students this week with a warning: Learning from the past means being brave and speaking up when you see something wrong.

It has been more than 100 years since Adolf Hitler secured control of the Nazi party. In the following years, he would go on to use hate, intimidation and violence to dismantle the mechanisms of the German democracy and bestow himself with the unchecked power to set the Holocaust in motion.

That’s the world that Gabriella Karin, Lea Radziner, Harry Davids, Eva Perlman and Henry Slucki were born into. The five, all Jewish Holocaust survivors, spoke to 10th graders at the school during a speaking event Tuesday to commemorate Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The goal of the speaker program is to educate students with the hope that they learn to recognize hate and tyranny, said Slucki in an interview with the Leader. And while there is much to learn from the Holocaust itself, Slucki said that the world should reflect on the similarities of the modern day and Hitler’s own ascension to power.

“That’s the only way to keep the events of the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s from repeating themselves,” he said. “And right now — right now — it is being repeated. The same language and the same words that were used by Hitler are now being used by some of our politicians.”

Students filed in during their history periods and each 10th grader was able to hear from at least one speaker. After each speech, students asked questions, approached the speakers and shared gifts.

One student, Melanie Fiero, arranged a floral bouquet during her gardening class Tuesday. She handed the flowers to Karin as she completed her speech.

“Truly I wanted to show her that I appreciate what she is doing because this is a really wonderful program. I can’t think of a more important topic for students to learn about,” said Fierro.

David Meyerhoff, the Holocaust speaker coordinator for the Burbank, Glendale and Los Angeles unified school districts, coordinates speaking events at more than 70 schools in the Southern California region yearly. He coordinated the event at John Burroughs and was honored for his work by the Burbank City Council in January.

“Our Holocaust survivor speakers are really the people who can save the United States, and to me, save the world by their message. By their life stories and history,” said Meyerhoff. “Their history is the history of the world. And other genocides are happening even now and have happened recently.”

Slucki noted that he has observed each speaker has their own style of sharing their experiences. He, for example, chooses to be objective and delivers his life story as a series of facts, while others, like sculptor Karin, make their appeals through art.

“But at the end of the day, the message is the same. And we have to share it while we can,” Slucki said. “We’re getting on in age. We’re not always going to be around. It’s [just] going to be in the history book. Right now, they are still able to meet us.”

Slucki said that it is important for the history of the lessons of the holocaust not to be seen strictly as “a Jewish question, but within the context of all hate crimes and racism.”

Because of that, he chooses to include modern comparisons that are reflected in his story.

“That’s why I say ‘no one is illegal’ during my presentation. Just because somebody says you don’t have the documents, it doesn’t make you illegal. I think that kind of statement resonates with these kids and the experiences of today,” Slucki said.

A student asks Holocaust survivor speaker Henry Slucki about his experience fleeing Nazi occupation at John Burroughs High School Tuesday.


Davids was born in 1942, about a block from Anne Frank, in Nazi-occupied Holland. His parents were German Jews who had left Germany for The Netherlands for better economic opportunities. Soon after his birth, his parents made the difficult decision to give Davids to members of the Dutch Resistance. The Dutch Resistance arranged for him to be hidden with a Protestant family in the small Dutch town of Ingwierrum. His parents were murdered in concentration camps.

Radziner was born in 1938 in Amsterdam, after the Kristallnacht pogrom. During an antisemitic raid, Radziner’s father was arrested suddenly one day along with 425 Jewish men and deported to the Mauthausen Concentration Camp in Austria where he later perished.  Through the Dutch Underground, Radziner and her sister Esther were entrusted to families who promised to hide the girls’ true identities and keep them safe like their own family. Radziner, her sister, and her mother all survived and were reunited after the war in 1945.

Perlman was born in Berlin, Germany in 1932, eight months before Hitler became chancellor. In the fall of 1933, Perlman and her parents escaped to Paris and survived WWII by moving several times until they ended up in a small village in the mountainous Vercors Massif, southwest of Grenoble. They had a few close calls, Perlman recounted, but survived miraculously, also thanks to several non-Jewish French people who helped them.

Slucki was born in Paris, France in 1934. He and his parents escaped to Southern France in 1940, shortly after the Germans occupied Northern France. In 1942, they avoided deportation by the Vichy regime by refusing to answer the door, and then escaped to Spain by crossing the Pyrenees on foot with the help of Spanish refugees in exile in France. In 1943, Slucki arrived in New York City, without his parents. They were later reunited in 1946.

Karin is a Los Angeles sculptor who does her work in clay. As a Holocaust survivor, she draws on the experiences of her childhood to evoke an emotional response to the pain and suffering of that era. Her sculptures are displayed in the Museum of Tolerance and the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust. Born in Bratislava, Slovakia, Karin experienced the Holocaust and hid from the Gestapo when she was 14.

First published in the May 4 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

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