Honoring My Grandfather’s Legacy
It’s a story my grandfather never told me, something that I only heard and understood later, years after my mother recounted it. In 1943, after his first wife and children were killed, my grandfather, Sam Wasserman, participated in one of the only successful mass escapes from a Nazi extermination camp. He and hundreds of other prisoners, overwhelmed and killed several guards and escaped the Sobibor death camp in Poland. My grandfather eluded capture, joined a band of partisans fighting the Nazis, and shortly after surviving the war, met the woman who would become my grandmother.
Seventy years later, my grandfather’s experience is more than just one story in a larger history of unimaginable loss, persistence, resistance, and survival; it’s a legacy that I deeply value and feel compelled to honor each and every day, especially on Yom HaShoah.
In a time of rising antisemitism and hatred, ongoing genocide, and unprecedented mass displacement, it’s critically important now, more than ever, to honor and protect the legacy of survivors by supporting organizations like USC Shoah Foundation.
For two decades, USC Shoah Foundation has made collecting, preserving, and elevating the voices of genocide survivors the cornerstone of its mission. By bringing testimonies into classrooms, museums, memorial sites, and countless other institutions across the globe, USC Shoah Foundation shares the wisdom of survivors and their stories to combat hatred by educating, changing hearts, cultivating empathy, and inspiring resistance.
USC Shoah Foundation’s impact is visible in many ways and in many places. In my hometown of Philadelphia, USC Shoah Foundation is working closely with the Philadelphia Holocaust Remembrance Foundation to support the development of the Philadelphia Holocaust Memorial Plaza. The Plaza opens later this year and will be a public living classroom featuring displays and exhibits that provide opportunities for learning and reflection to hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Using an interactive mobile application developed in partnership with USC Shoah Foundation, visitors can access eyewitness testimonies from the Visual History Archive® to learn about the Holocaust and other genocides and think critically about the ways they can be forces for tolerance, inclusion, and empathy in the world.
On this Yom HaShoah, as we commemorate and honor those who we lost during the Holocaust and survivors like my grandfather, I invite you to join me in supporting USC Shoah Foundation’s important work of inspiring people around the world to stand up to hatred and intolerance