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The Survivors' Project

This video testimony was recorded under the auspices of the Holocaust Museum & Center for Tolerance and Education. It was produced, and directed by Paul Galan, a Holocaust Survivor. These clips are part of an interactive educational video called The Survivors' Project. The survivors featured in these video clips are local to the Lower Hudson Valley Region and many were intrinsic to the foundation of the Holocaust Museum. Though some of the survivors featured are no longer with us, their memory lives on and we are forever grateful to them for sharing their stories with us.

ABUSE

From the time the Nazis took power in 1933, abuse of Jewish people became an increasingly prevalent feature of German society that spread across Europe in conquered and collaborating territories. Not only military and police participated in abuse of Jewish individuals, but also their friends and neighbors – including children. From physical assaults to emotional torment and verbal vitriol, abuse was a devastating daily occurrence. To learn more, watch the video clip above and read from the USHMM’s Holocaust Encyclopedia on “How and why did ordinary people across Europe contribute to the persecution of their Jewish neighbors?”

BETRAYAL

During the Nazi era one of the most painful experiences for Jewish individuals was the betrayal they experienced on so many levels. From childhood friends, to neighbors, to colleagues, and – of course – the government, many Jews could not count on support, honesty, or security from those they once trusted. Antisemitic propaganda and social pressure turned friends and neighbors against their Jewish friends, to devastating results. To learn more, watch the video clip above and read more on the USHMM’s online exhibition, “Some Were Neighbors”

COMPASSION

Moments of compassion are rare but poignant moments in survivor testimony. Amidst the extreme cruelty and indifference that define the Holocaust, small acts of compassion could make the difference between life and death. Though the obstacles to rescue and resistance (including threat of death) deterred many non-Jews from helping victims, there were those who exemplified moral courage in their choices to help in whatever way they could. To learn more, watch the video clip above and read more about individuals and organizations that chose to help Jews at the USHMM’s Holocaust Encyclopedia.

CRUELTY

Cruelty was the primary feature of Nazi ideology, enacted by all who served its nefarious purposes. Chief among the recollections of many survivors are the acts of hatred, physical violence, abuse and humiliation carried out by the perpetrators they encountered during the Nazi era. Today these memories shock and devastate us – rightly so – but they were an everyday occurrence during the Nazi’s genocidal program against European Jewry. To learn more, watch the video clip above and read more on the USHMM’s Holocaust Encyclopedia about the SS (known for their cruelty)

DEATH

As Allied Forces closed in on the locations of concentration and death camps across Europe, prisoners were evacuated by Nazi forces and sent on what became known as the death marches. Set out on foot and forced to walk for days with little to no food or rest, often in the harsh conditions of winter and early spring, prisoners had little chance of survival; those who could not keep up were shot. Stories of survival from the death marches are difficult to hear, but critical to our understanding of the last cruel days of the Holocaust. To learn more watch the video clip above and read more on the USHMM’s Holocaust Encyclopedia about death marches.

FORCED LABOR

As Nazi policy towards Jews evolved during the 1930s and throughout the War and Holocaust, forced labor became a common feature. Beginning shortly after the invasion of Poland, Jewish forced labor was instituted and expanded to ghettos and camps across Europe. Conditions were grueling and conducted under conditions of starvation and extreme cruelty. To learn more, watch the video clip above and read more in the USHMM’s Holocaust Encyclopedia about forced labor.

GHETTOS

Though Jewish ghettos had a centuries-long history across Europe, the first ghettos established for the purposes of the Holocaust were created in October 1939. Ghettos served the purpose of separating Jewish people from society, further enabling their persecution and exploitation, and ultimately facilitating mass murder. Conditions in the ghettos were unsanitary, overcrowded, and lacking in necessities to support life. To learn more, watch the video clip above and read more at the USHMM’s Holocaust Encyclopedia about ghettos.

HATE

A persistent question in Holocaust history – and in all genocides – is how are perpetrators so thoroughly filled with hatred for their fellow human beings? Many survivors’ testimonies linger on this question, causing us to consider where hate comes from and how normal people can be convinced to take up such violent mindsets. To learn more, watch the video clip above and read about the power of propaganda in the USHMM’s Holocaust Encyclopedia.

HIDING

One strategy for survival Jews during the Holocaust was to go into hiding, either by concealing their identity or by physically hiding from the view of Nazis and their collaborators. Both kinds of hiding were extremely challenging and perilous, often requiring help from non-Jews – some of whom rescued for financial compensation and others who did so from a position of moral obligation and caring. To learn more, watch the video clip above and read about life in hiding, as well as those who helped on Yad Vashem’s Tribute to the Righteous Among the Nations.

HOPE

As the War dragged on, for those who were in hiding or imprisoned in camps and ghettos suffering seemed to have no end. Each day brought the question anew: when would this misery end? With limited access to reliable information about the war’s progress, some Jews relied upon hope to get them through each day more difficult than the last. This spiritual resistance, their refusal to allow their spirits to be broken, sustained them in ways more powerful than we can imagine. To learn more, watch the video clip above and read about Spiritual Resistance in the Ghettos in the USHMM’s Holocaust Encyclopedia.

HUMILIATION

Cruelly, humiliation became a common tool in the Nazis’ arsenal of reinforcing their racial ideology and power vis-à-vis Jewish individuals and communities. Beginning in 1933 with the Nazi rise to power and continuing throughout the Holocaust, Jews and other targeted groups experienced individual and communal humiliation. Spectacles like public assaults, forced shaving of men’s beards and women’s hair, and enforced nudity were incorporated into everyday life during the Holocaust. To learn more, watch the video clip above and read more in the USHMM’s Holocaust Encyclopedia about public humiliation.

LIBERATION

In 1944 and 1945 as the Allied Forces made progress in the war against the Axis Powers, their soldiers stumbled upon the SS concentration and death camp system. Liberating soldiers encountered horrors beyond imagination: camps filled with victims’ remains and survivors in desperate need of medical care. For the soldiers who entered the camps and the survivors who were saved through their efforts, liberation marked the turning point from which their lives were forever changed. To learn more, watch the video clip above and read more in the USHMM’s Holocaust Encyclopedia about liberation of Nazi camps.

LIFE BEFORE

Before the Nazis came to power in 1933, Jewish communities existed in every country across Europe, with a population estimated around nine million people. There was great diversity in Jewish communities’ religious practice, culture, language, politics, and ways of life. To learn more, watch the video clip above and check out the article from USHMM’s Holocaust Encyclopedia about Jewish life in Europe before the Holocaust.

LIVING CONDITIONS

Living conditions in the SS concentration camp system during the Holocaust were abominable and not meant to sustain life. Prisoners were subject to the elements, with little to keep them warm in winter or cool in summer. Food and water were strictly rationed to starvation conditions. Due to the unsanitary and harsh conditions, disease and death permeated every sector of camp life. To learn more, watch the video clip above and check out the article from the Wiener Holocaust Library.

RECOVERY

After the liberation of the camps and the end of the war came the long road to recovery for the survivors. Though in some ways it is impossible to leave this past behind, many survivors established new lives – including here in the United States, in the Lower Hudson Valley and created beautiful families. For many, their children and grandchildren are a final marker of victory over the Nazis and a powerful reminder of the resiliency of the human spirit. To learn more, watch the video clip above and read more about Survival and Legacy at the Wiener Holocaust Library’s online resource, The Holocaust Explained.

SELECTION

In Holocaust history, selection refers to the intake process at death camps. For those who survived a death camp, their testimony often refers to the process: disembarking from the cattle cars and queuing up for examination by Nazi SS doctors who would determine – with nary more than a glance – whether a person lived or died. This harrowing process represented not only life or death, but for many people the last time they would see their loved ones as they were separated to different fates. To learn more, watch the video clip above and see the compelling visual history of selection through the Auschwitz Album on Yad Vashem’s digital exhibition.

TARGETING

In 1935 at the annual Nazi Party rally, the Nuremberg Race Laws were announced, which systematically isolated Jews from German society and legalized persecution in many ways. This targeting of Jews in Germany expanded to newly acquired German territories and continued as the war ravaged Europe. By the 1939 invasion of Poland, wearing the Jewish star to identify individuals began to be mandated. These measures served to help perpetrators quickly mark Jews for targeted humiliation, violence, and later death. To learn more, watch the video clip above and read more in the USHMM’s Holocaust Encyclopedia about the Nuremberg Race Laws.