My grandparents were Holocaust survivors – World Refugee Day 2018

Henry & Rachell Holocaust survivors, Munich 1946
Henry and Rachell in Munich, 1946

New York, New York – A grandson honors his grandparents, refugees from the Holocaust, on World Refugee Day 2018.

My grandparents were Holocaust survivors. They lost their entire families in Poland in World War II to the unchecked hate of anti-Semitism. They arrived alone in America as refugees, bringing nothing other than their deep appreciation for America’s freedoms and opportunities to thrive. They succeeded in building productive lives for themselves and their children.

Although my grandfather was an experienced chemical engineer, no one in his field would hire him. Nevertheless, my grandparents worked hard, raised three children and became financially secure enough to become active participants in social justice movements, and immigrant refugee causes.

For example, when Russian Jews were finally allowed to leave the Soviet Union in the 1980s, my grandparents, who spoke fluent Russian as well as other languages, volunteered to receive and mentor new arrivals to the United States.

My grandparents’ story of survival and hope, their ethics, and their example of contributing to the community inspired me to found 3GNY, a New York-based organization for descendants of Holocaust survivors dedicated to preserving and passing on the stories and lessons of the Holocaust.

As a living link to survivors, we grandchildren are in a unique position to share this important history, and we believe the Holocaust serves as an instructive entry point for examining prejudice today.

3GNY has trained over 150 descendants of survivors as Holocaust educators, who have visited over 100 classrooms, impacting over 5,000 students.

On our school visits, we share our family history, and engage students from different backgrounds to think about ways to confront intolerance and prejudice today. We sensitize students to the importance and beauty of diversity, respect and inclusion.

Today, the stakes are high. Hate speech and hate crimes are up, and at a time in this country where immigrants are still treated with suspicion, we all have a role to play. The Holocaust serves as a reminder for all people that the descent into hate can be steep and fast.

Our ultimate lesson to young people: don’t take for granted the civility and humanity of a democratic society. My grandparents, the refugees, taught us that it is more fragile than we think, and so it must always be vigilantly protected.

Refugees shaking hands

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World Refugee Day 2018

This month, to celebrate World Refugee Day on June 20, US-born Americans across the United States honor newcomer Americans with a story from their state – a story of a refugee, asylee, or immigrant they admire. From soldiers to politicians, employers to students, social workers to business people – everyday Americans tell their stories to celebrate the goodness and courage of the newcomers who make the United States a better place.

Every day in the month of June, the Refugee Center Online will publish a new story from a different state. Check back for new stories each day: therefugeecenter.org/world-refugee-day.

Learn more about World Refugee Day. All across the country, there will be events celebrating World Refugee Day. Visit this map to find an event in your community.

About Daniel Brooks
Daniel Brooks is the grandchild of four Holocaust survivors and the founder of 3GNY. He is an HR professional at a law firm in Manhattan and lives in Astoria, New York. Find out more about the work of 3GNY at www.3gny.org.