PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – It’s been more than 70 years since the horrors of the Holocaust first shocked the world.
Now many survivors have passed on, and their descendants are left to carry on their legacies. Some shared their stories at Philadelphia’s National Museum of American Jewish History Sunday.
Shari Glauser’s father, Kurt Herman, lived in Austria when the Nazis took over in 1938.
“He was eight years old,” she says, “but he could tell the changes were not good.”
But Kurt was lucky. He was one of 50 children brought from Europe to Philadelphia by a wealthy Jewish couple. He left Austria, alone, on a train one rainy night in 1939.
“But his mom was not allowed to wave because this was the sign for Hitler and Jews were not permitted to do that,” says Shari.
His grandparents perished, but Kurt’s parents made it to the U.S. He became an accountant.
As an adult, he donated time and money to Jewish causes, and that’s one of the reasons, 18 months after his death, that Shari continues to tell his story:
“And hope that other children, and grandchildren and friends of survivors will be interested in taking the torch for their loved ones, ’cause your stories need to be told.”
Also, one grandson told the story of his grandfather, who sang last year at the 70th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz.
Cantor David Wisnia’s voice is central to his story. He was a child prodigy, a gifted singer trained in Warsaw, Poland. His talent didn’t keep him off the train to Auschwitz, but his grandson, Avi, says it helped keep him alive:
“He started singing for the commanders of the cell blocks, for the SS Gaurd and eventually, entertaining them at their late night drinking parties, and he became in this way, sort of a favored, privileged prisoner.”
David escaped from a transport to Dachau and was taken in by American forces. He served as a Cantor in Levittown, Bucks County for 28 years, and now performs with his accompanist, his grandson, Avi, who is keeping the family history alive.
“The things that happen to a family reverberate through the generations and I think it’s so important to share these stories, because their stories are your stories.”