"Hearing one person tell their story gave a completely different perspective to what happened, as it wasn't about statistics or about a nation as a whole, but one person who lost his family and home." ~O. Avery (student)

Survivor Panel Addresses Philadelphia Learning Academy

On Tuesday, December 8th, 2009 the Holocaust Awareness Museum sponsored a unique and dynamic survivor outreach program at the Philadelphia Learning Academy an alternative educational institution in the Port Richmond section of the city.

At the invitation of Kahlila Ames, Principal and Jessica Melman, English Studies, three Auschwitz survivors, Manya Perel, Itka Zygmuntowicz, and Michael Herskovitz presented their Holocaust survival stories to the student body of more than sixty young men and women.

The two and a half hour session began with a general assembly. Marc Adelman, museum staff educator, introduced the survivors to the audience as he prepared the students and staff for what would be “one of the most extraordinary and memorable events in their life” an “opportunity to be a witness to living history.”

After the assembly, students and staff divided into three separate classrooms where one survivor was assigned to each room to relate their specific harrowing experience as a victim of Nazi persecution. Manya Perel urged her students to “repeat my story so the whole world will know what happened.” Itka Zygmuntowicz, author of a book of poetry, revealed her tattooed number on her left arm, 25673, while she proudly iterated, “I am not a number. I am a human being ” to which she received an ovation of admiration. Mike Herskovitz, author of two books about his life in Nazi Germany, urged students to “remember the eleven million victims, six million Jews and five million, Gypsies, homosexuals, political prisoners, and the mentally and physically challenged men and women of all faiths.”

The morning program concluded with questions from the students that were thoughtful and appropriate to the experiences of the survivors. The answers were heartfelt and passionate and the students and staff responded in like asking for a multitude of photo opportunities embracing their survivor guests both physically and emotionally.