International Holocaust Remembrance Day January 27, 2020

Those Who Were There
Voices from the Holocaust

Listen to the voices of Holocaust survivors
and witnesses who were there

Source – Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies

On January 27, 2020, the world will observe the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp. Marked internationally as #HolocaustRemembranceDay, this historic moment presents an invaluable opportunity to communicate the history of the Holocaust to younger generations who may know little about the genocide of European Jewry, its historical significance and impact, or the warning it continues to hold for our present and future.

The first season of “Those Who Were There: Voices from the Holocaust,” a podcast drawn from the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies, provides first-hand testimony by individuals who survived concentration and labor camps, who participated in resistance efforts, or who witnessed the atrocities of World War II as service members fighting the Nazis and their collaborators.

“The word ‘Holocaust’ often conjures up images of an impersonal bureaucratic juggernaut, of long trains carrying millions of anonymous victims to death factories,” writes SAM KASSOW, Charles H. Northam Professor of History at Trinity College and historical advisor to the podcast. “By contrast, the voices of ‘Those Who Were There’ offer accounts of the Holocaust that are deeply human and personal—stories of what happens to families, to former friends and neighbors, to communities, when the thin veneer of civilization is stripped away.” Prof. Kassow’s mother, Celia, shares her testimony in episodes 8 and 9 and the podcast, and he himself shares his perspective as a child of Holocaust survivors in episode 10 (to be published on January 16th).

Since 1979, the organization that became the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies has been recording the oral histories of Holocaust survivors and witnesses; today, the archive holds over 4,400 testimonies. As we observe International Holocaust Remembrance Day and the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, it is our obligation to listen to those who experienced these atrocities first-hand—to hear them and to learn from them.

ELEANOR REISSA, Tony-nominated director, actress, singer, award-winning writer in both English and Yiddish, and narrator of “Those Who Were There” podcast:
“My parents fought for their lives during the Holocaust; my father in Auschwitz and my mother as a slave in Uzbekistan. Both were born in Poland. My parents didn’t speak to me of their traumatic experiences, unfortunately, so much of what happened to them is still unknown. Many of the people you’ll hear in this podcast waited decades to tell their stories. But we are fortunate and grateful that they did, and that the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies was there to collect and preserve their oral histories. Always—but especially on the International Holocaust Remembrance Day—we must honor their efforts and listen to their stories. As we know, ‘those who do not learn from the past, are condemned to repeat it.'”

ERIC MARCUS, co-producer of “Those Who Were There: Voices from the Holocaust,” and creator of the award-winning “Making Gay History” podcast:
“I grew up in a neighborhood of Holocaust survivors and refugees, so I was very familiar with the Holocaust in the broadest sense. But I remember as a child hearing that number: six million killed. It was just beyond comprehending. Over the past two years working with testimonies from the Fortunoff Video Archive, I’ve come closer to understanding, one story at a time. What these people experienced and witnessed is almost impossible to imagine. But we don’t have to imagine because these testimonies take us back to a time that we can’t repeat—that we must always guard against repeating. For the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, I feel it’s my obligation to bear witness to the lives of those who were there and to share their stories with those who are willing to listen.”

Where to Listen, Follow and Subscribe

In addition to the ten episodes of the podcast, from now until January 27th, the archive will use it’s social media channels to present interview excerpts that go “beyond the podcast” to share the stories of survivors whose experiences are directly tied to Auschwitz.

SUBSCRIBE: Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Stitcher / Google
TWITTER: @TWWTpodcast / INSTAGRAM: @thosewhowerethere

“Those Who Were There” Podcast Episode Overviews

During the Holocaust, from 1939 to 1945, six million Jews (two thirds of all the Jews who lived in Europe) were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators. The Nazis also murdered vast numbers of Polish people, Slavs, Soviet prisoners of war, Sinti and Roma, along with political opponents, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and homosexuals. During the first season of “Those Who Were There,” we’ll be presenting 10 episodes drawn from the audio portion of the Fortunoff Video Archive’s videotaped recordings. In every episode, a survivor or witness shares their own story.


Survivor: Skarżysko-Kamienna labor camp and Buchenwald concentration camp.⁠⠀
Martin Schiller was just six years old in 1939. “I remember the war coming to our town with a very severe air raid. The whole city was just an inferno. And we all ran for our lives. We crossed a river called Vistula. And certain things you can remember. And one of the things I remember is we were crossing in a little boat. We just looked at a wall of fire in back of us.” The “small town type of life” that Martin had enjoyed with his Jewish family, in Poland, “came to an abrupt halt immediately” with the Nazis invasion and occupation.


Witness: Buchenwald concentration camp.⁠⠀
Leon Bass was born in Philadelphia on January 23, 1925—the fourth of six children. His parents were born in South Carolina in the 1890s, at the beginning of the Jim Crow era. Just after the First World War, they joined other African Americans in the Great Migration north. They settled in Philadelphia with the hope of making a better life for themselves and their children. As a young man during World War II, Leon volunteered to serve in the United States Army. In April 1945, he and four others from his unit arrived at the Buchenwald concentration camp in Weimar, Germany—just one day after it was liberated. Decades later in his recorded testimony he recalled: “Had I been told [about Buchenwald], I doubt if I could have, in my mind’s eye, envisioned anything, anything as horrible as what I saw.”


Survivor: Auschwitz and Gross-Rosen concentration camps.⁠⠀⁠⠀
Heda Margolius Kovaly spent most of her life in Prague, where she was born in 1919, shortly after the collapse of the Habsburg Empire. Heda grew up in a democratic Czechoslovakia. In 1939, she witnessed the German annexation and occupation of her homeland. The Nazi persecution of Czech Jews escalated quickly as Jews were fired from their jobs, had their businesses confiscated, were thrown out of school, and were required to wear a yellow star. Deportations of Prague’s Jews began in 1941, primarily to the Lodz ghetto and the Theresienstadt concentration camp. Heda and her family were among those forced into the ghetto. Later, they were sent to concentration camps.


Survivor: Skarżysko-Kamienna labor camp.⁠⠀
Sally Finkelstein Horwitz’s childhood ended far too soon. By the age of 14, Polish-born Sally had lost both of her parents and found herself, along with her two sisters, in one of Nazi Germany’s most notorious labor camps, Skarżysko-Kamienna. Her testimony, shared in 1979 with Laurel Vlock and Dori Laub, speaks to the bonds of family. The Finkelstein sisters cared for one another as best they could and miraculously lived to see liberation.


Survivor: Natzweiler, Dautmergen, and Dachau concentration camps.⁠⠀
Oslo-born Arne Brun Lie was just 18 years old when he joined a Norwegian resistance cell, or “action group,” and received a rudimentary training in sabotage and self-defense. As he explained in his 1987 testimony, “We were told that if we were caught, we would be tortured, and probably executed. In our young enthusiasm we said ‘yes, that’s fine, we will do that.’” In the spring of 1944, Arne’s resistance group was issued a directive: destroy lists of Norwegians targeted for forced labor by the Nazis. The mission was compromised and although Arne himself had not participated in the action, he was implicated and arrested. And so Arne’s nightmare of imprisonment and torture at the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators began.


Survivor: Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

Renee Hartman was the “ears” of her family—her younger sister, Herta, and her parents were deaf. Born in Bratislava, Slovakia, in 1933—the same year the Nazis took power in Germany—Renee was just six years old as the city came under German occupation. She bore the responsibility of listening for the boots of the Gestapo as they walked the streets and rounded up Jews for transports out of the city, warning her family to remain absolutely silent. After the sisters were deported to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, Renee never let Herta out of her sight, aware that the younger girl’s hearing impairment made her a target for medical experiments performed on Jewish prisoners. Together they survived a long nightmare that included betrayal, physical violence, life-threatening disease, and hunger.


Witness: Woebbelin concentration camp.

By any measure, Leonard was hardly a typical American GI. He was born in 1922 in Yokohama, Japan, where his Russian parents  had resettled after fleeing their homeland following the Bolshevik Revolution. Leonard grew up living with his parents in cities across Europe, including Berlin and Paris, picking up languages as he went. Leonard arrived with his family in the United States just before the outbreak of World War II. He studied mathematics and physics at Columbia University before being drafted into the U.S. Army in May 1943. Decades later, in 1988, Leonard spoke with interviewer Bernard Weinstein about the day in the spring of 1945 when the U.S. military was advancing toward Berlin and Leonard discovered a concentration camp on the outskirts of Ludwigslust, a small city in northern Germany.



From the moment her interview begins, Celia Kassow recounts her experience of World War II with great intensity and urgency. Born into an upper-middle-class family in a small Polish village, Celia was 17 years old and living at boarding school when the Nazi army attacked her hometown, in June 1941.

Part 1:
Part 2:

In 1979, the Holocaust Survivors Film Project began collecting videotaped interviews of Holocaust survivors in the New Haven, Connecticut, area. In 1981, the collection was donated to Yale University. The Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies, part of the Yale University Library, opened its doors to the public the following year. The Fortunoff Archive has been working to record, collect, and preserve Holocaust witness testimonies — and facilitate the work of researchers, educators, and the general public — ever since.

The Fortunoff Archive currently holds more than 4,400 testimonies, which are comprised of over 12,000 recorded hours of videotape. Testimonies were produced in cooperation with 36 affiliated projects across North America, South America, Europe, and Israel. The Fortunoff Archive and its affiliates recorded the testimonies of willing individuals with first-hand experience of the Nazi persecutions, including those who were in hiding, survivors, bystanders, resistants, and liberators. Testimonies were recorded in the language the witness preferred, and range in length from 30 minutes to over 40 hours.

Press Contact
Cristiana Peña /
Those Who Were There: Voices from the Holocaust
SUBSCRIBE: Apple Podcasts / Stitcher
TW: @TWWTpodcast / IG: @thosewhowerethere


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.