Omaha Public Libraries hosts Holocaust survivor series

Photo by Omaha Public Library

April Knipp

It is estimated that there are only around 100,000 Holocaust survivors still living in the United States. One-fourth of those survivors are over the age of 85. It is more crucial than ever to preserve first-hand accounts of this horrific time in history.

The Institute of Holocaust Education (IHE) and the Omaha Public Library (OPL) will present a free, four-week series featuring Holocaust survivors from the Omaha area. Each week will showcase a different speaker at a different library branch.

“This generation isn’t going to be around much longer,” Emily Getzschman of the OPL said. “We don’t want their stories to go with them. We want their stories to live on. We want people to be able to put a face with the stories. This is an amazing opportunity to open your world to new things.”

Survivor and author, Milton M. Kleinberg, will kick off the series on Sept. 28 at 6:30 p.m. at the Bess Johnson Elkhorn Branch. Kleinberg’s childhood was interrupted when at 4 years old he and his family were thrown out of their home in Poland. That was only the first of many torturous events that would follow.

After decades of silence, Kleinberg is now dedicated to carrying on the memory of the Holocaust to help future generations better understand what happened. In 2010, his memoir “Bread or Death,” was published.

It is not uncommon for Holocaust survivors to have difficulty sharing their experiences, even after so many years.

“We are actually seeing in the works that are coming out now; the books, the essays, they are written by a younger generation sharing the stories of this older generation that maybe it took getting to this time in their lives to share their story, because it was so traumatic,” Getzschman said.

Although IHE and OPL have a long-standing relationship, this is the first time they are teaming up together to do a four-part series. This structure was chosen to give everyone in the community an op-portunity to hear direct accounts from this period in history.

Holocaust survivor speaking events have had a strong turnout from the community in the past.

“It would be fantastic if we had a cross-generational audience,” Getzschman said. “If they are young and learning about it, they are the ones that are going to carry those stories on. I would definitely encourage younger adults to be there. I’m looking forward to having a good audience.”

This Holocaust speaker series is just one example of the Holocaust educational tools IHE and OPL offer the community. The Institute of Holocaust Education provides training for educators, integrated arts programming for students, and offers opportunities for survivors to speak about their Holocaust experiences.

The Omaha Public Library has approximately 1,000 Holocaust-re-lated materials in their catalogue. The collection includes fiction, nonfiction, maps, films, and government documents. Databases are also available for the public’s use. Even those that are unable to attend any of the events in this “It is important to humanize what happened and not just listen to it as a story.”series are encouraged to reach out and educate themselves.

Omaha Public Radio, KIOS 91.5, will record all speakers and will broadcast the recordings at 12 p.m. on Mondays. Digital copies of the recordings will be available for checkout from the library.

“It is important to humanize what happened and not just listen to it as a story,” Getzschman said. “It’s not a work of fiction. It happened to these people. It is important that we recognize their stories.”

Series Schedule:

Sept. 28, speaker Milton M. Kleinberg, 6:30 p.m., Bess Johnson Elkhorn Branch.

Oct. 2, speaker Lila Lutz, 6:30 p.m., Benson Branch.

Oct. 12, speaker Bea Karp, 6:30 p.m., W. Dale Clark Main Library.

Oct. 19, speaker Kitty Williams, 6:30 p.m., W. Clarke Swanson Branch.