MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Recent clashes in the Middle East have fueled a rise in anti-Semitic attacks across the United States.
In a recent poll, 75% of Jewish Americans say there is more anti-Semitism now than five years ago.
During Jewish-American Heritage Month, WCCO spoke with Minnesotans with deeply personal stories of pain, and hope.
It has been 70 years since six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust. For many, it’s a story from the history books, but for some, it’s a story that defines their lives — today.
Minnetonka resident Heather Stesin’s father Leo was a survivor.
“He never believed in victimhood, he just decided that people need to have hope that there can be a better world,” Stesin said.
South Minneapolis resident Rosanne Zaidenweber’s mother Dora is also a survivor.
“When they arrived in Auschwitz, they took everyone’s clothes, they shaved their heads, and they gave them a pair of shoes, a dress, maybe a pair of underwear,” Zaidenweber said.
Dora, now 97, has the scars to prove it. Her father spoke five languages and was assigned as a registrar. Somehow, their lives were spared.
“My grandfather spent two-and-a-half years in Auschwitz, which is unheard of,” Zaidenweber said. “There were only a handful of people that survived Auschwitz for that long.”
Stesin’s father was the son of a tailor who helped Nazis with their clothes, so his family was also spared.
“His family was always warned when there was going to be a ‘cleansing’ of the ghetto, like they were going to be killing people,” Stesin said.
After years of keeping it all in, when he became a grandfather, Leo started telling his story of survival, and how he was able to save a fellow teenager, named Alicia.
“When the Nazi rounded them up and said, ‘Come on, let’s go,’ he said, ‘No, no, I’m not going without my wife.’ She was accepted into the family and they were saved,” Stesin said. “Her mother and her father were killed the next day.”
Two weeks after Leo died, Stesin’s family found Alicia Melamed, who is now an artist in England. It’s another illustration in the story Stesin and Zaidenweber are determined to keep sharing.
“Our job as, you know, the children of people who have really important stories is just to keep telling those stories, and to humanize people, and to show faces,” Zaidenweber said.
Stesin says she’s spreading her father’s message.
“Let’s educate people so that they know what happened, so it doesn’t happen again,” she said.
Both Stesin’s mother and Zaidenweber’s father will be featured in the “Transfer of Memory” exhibit, organized by the Jewish Community Relations Council Minnesota and Dakotas. It tells the stories of local Holocaust survivors through portraits.
It will be at St. Olaf College October 15 through November 28. Click here for more information.
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Author: WCCO | CBS Minnesota