Honoring Holocaust Remembrance Day Here at Geni

Posted January 27, 2011 by Geni | One Comment

The Holocaust is one of the most tragic events in human history. Today, we try our best to honor the memories of all of the victims of the genocidal policy of Nazi Germany.

A little while ago, some Geni staffers were given a tour of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust by Randy Schoenberg — the president of the museum, and an avid member of Geni. He was kind enough to give us an interview on camera, and I asked him to explain to us how the Holocaust affected him and his family tree. Here is what he had to say:

My grandparents all escaped the Nazis and came to America. They left behind many relatives who did not survive, including my great-grandfather Siegmund Zeisl who was murdered at Treblinka. I began working on my family tree when I was just a kid, and my grandmother was able to tell me many stories about my family. Since then I have felt a strong duty to record what happened to my family and others during the Holocaust. Over the past five years I have helped to build the new building and exhibit for the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust.

Geni user and curator Shmuel-Aharon Kam had this to say:

My grandmother, Cecilia Etkin, grew up in Sighet, Romania. There were 22 people in her immediate family (parents, siblings and their kids). A total of 4 survived, 3 by hiding as non-Jews, and my grandmother who lived through 3 years of Auschwitz and other camps. If I expand the circle to include her cousins the numbers are MUCH higher, but even the genealogical information itself is lost! My other grandmother, Ruby Kahn (Rothman), lost a couple hundred 2nd and 3rd cousins. ALL killed in the environs of Stryy, Ukraine. There was a single survivor, Shmuel Zelig Rothman

So the Holocaust IS very much present in our lives, not only because we have survivors among us, but due to the effects of their trauma on their descendants, easily seen in the 1st generation, but also in the 2nd (and even 3rd). It wasn’t easy growing up with a (grand)mother who would get up in the middle of the night to check if the refrigerator was full, having starved for 3 years, or who, once she got started, could orate for hours on the horrors she had experienced.

Living in Israel, with the largest number of survivors and the constant wars, the Holocaust is strongly felt at a cultural level, to the extent that it will probably take another century before we can be truly objective about it. It’s part of the 1st Grade curriculum, and the exposure to this topic is massive, in my opinion, to the degree of an unhealthy obsession. So we tend to have a somewhat cynical sense of humor.

Living in the Middle-East, we hear the word “Genocide” far too often, whether wrongly being accused of it, or having our neighbors declare they’ll “Erase us off the map.” I actually once used a Geni screen shot of my grandmother’s tree to “Demonstrate” what actual Genocide looks like. So yes, the Holocaust is very much a constant presence in our lives. Especially as I don’t think the world has fundamentally changed since then…

As you can see, the aftermath of the holocaust is still impacting the world family tree every single day. We hope that Geni can provide the tools to keep the memories of those who were tortured and murdered in the holocaust alive.

How are you honoring Holocaust Remembrance Day? Let us know in the comment section below this post.

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  • Judith Elam

    I would like to honour my parents, both Holocaust survivors, from Germany. My father is deceased and my mother is struggling with her day-to-day life, at age 86. nnOf those who were murdered, I would like to honour my mother’s little sister, Etti Lea Mendzigursky, who was deported at age 7, together with my grandmother Frieda Wiener Mendzigursky, to Riga. We do not know exactly how or when they died. I am named after my little aunty, so I will carry her torch till the day I die.nnAlso, my paternal grandparents, Margarete & Werner Nathan, who miraculously survived Theresienstadt, yet had to witness my great-grandmother, Julie Schwarz Hahn, starve to death, and their daughter-in-law and young grandson be sent to Auschwitz to be gassed. My great-grandmother, Mariem Wiener, who was deported to Poland during Kristallnacht, my gg-grandmother, Chane Rose Wiener, who died in the Lwow ghetto and my great-grandfather, Meier Feiwel Mendzigursky, who was deported from his bed in the old age home in Leipzig and died 5 months later at Theresienstadt, as well as numerous other relatives.nnFinally, I would like to honour my great-uncle, Abraham Wiener, who somehow managed to survive an incredible 5 1/2 years at that hellhole, Buchenwald concentration camp, including 2 “hernia” operations, only to die 4 weeks after the liberation in 1945, of typhus, in the camp hospital. I cannot stop wondering how he managed to stay alive all that time. I wonder if Abraham could have survived anyway, knowing his wife, 3 young children, sister, mother, grandmother, little niece and numerous other relatives had all been murdered.