Born in 1930, in Bustina, Czechoslovakia, Holocaust survivor Andrew Burian was forcefully taken from his home at the age of 13 and imprisoned, first in the Mateszalka Ghetto in Hungary, and then in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.
Burian survived both the Birkenau and Mauthausen concentration camps as well as the infamous death march evacuations of each camp. Burian’s dramatic story of survival is gripping to watch and read. He was ultimately liberated from Gunskirchen by the U.S. Army, miraculously reunited with his father and brother, and eventually immigrated to the United States. Burian used the lessons of his childhood as a catalyst to fuel his lasting dedication to Holocaust education and remembrance.
Burian had an ideal childhood. Living in the close company of his family, Burian celebrated the Jewish holidays, and lived in a well-off home with the help of his family’s timber business. Still a modern Orthodox Jew today, Burian, 87, has made evident to his family and peers the importance and responsibility of ensuring awareness of the Holocaust, as well as carrying on Jewish values and traditions.
Following his liberation, Burian was silent about his experiences for nearly 15 years, until he was asked to speak at a Yom HaShoah event at a synagogue. He created a video testimony for USC Shoah Foundation in 1998.
In his testimony, Burian shares that during his childhood the importance of education was heavily emphasized in his household.
“Mother harped upon education, education, education. Education was very important. She was highly educated and an avid reader,” he said.
Burian’s mother, Matilda, along with his grandfather and great-uncle, were killed immediately upon arrival to Auschwitz. Now, with the values instilled upon him at an early age, Burian generously donates his time and personal history to younger generations, and has ultimately created a legacy of his own, while broadly affecting students through a range of mediums that include public speaking, his video testimony and a written memoir.
Burian’s testimony is uniquely available through many pathways at USC Shoah Foundation, including the Visual History Archive for scholars and the public, as well as the Institute’s award winning IWitness educational platform. Burian’s testimony is being used in classrooms throughout the world and students of all ages and backgrounds are deriving their own meaning from his powerful story. Burian’s USC Shoah Foundation testimony is also accessible on YouTube, where it has been viewed by thousands.
In addition to giving his testimony to the Institute’s Visual History Archive, Burian has demonstrated his commitment to educating and remembering through his active involvement with Yad Vashem. Burian has participated as a keynote speaker, honoree, and dignitary at many of their commemorative events.
Furthermore, Burian has spoken at numerous prestigious universities, such as the Yale Law School, Princeton University, and Harvard University. During his speech at Liberty University in 2014, before a live audience of over 13,000 students, he explained that “in recent years, I concluded that it is my responsibility to stand as a witness.”
With the inspiration of his father in mind, Burian’s son, Lawrence Burian, has also pursued his father’s commitment to Holocaust education, as he has also been deeply involved with Yad Vashem and has become more recently connected to USC Shoah Foundation.
“I feel a great sense of responsibility towards helping ensure that future generations are aware of what occurred but also learn important lessons for the future,” the younger Burian said in a recent phone interview.
Indeed, Lawrence Burian has been involved with Yad Vashem for 24 years. Both he and his wife sit on the board of directors of the America Society for Yad Vashem, and the younger Burian was a founding member of its Young Leadership on which two of his sons now participate. Both of Andrew Burian’s other children similarly continue to stress the importance of Holocaust education.
Burian’s recently published memoir, “A Boy from Buština: A Son, a Survivor, a Witness,” recalls the various stages of his life, ranging from his childhood, through the Holocaust experience to his ultimate immigration to the United States. Andrew Burian confronts the impossibility of tackling a horrifying event like the Holocaust and its impact on him, both as a 13-year-old boy and a man in his 80s.
“One must also read this book because ultimately it is a story of goodness triumphing over evil, of the will to live triumphing surrender to despair, and of human love that is fiercer than death,” notable author, Blu Greenberg, shares in her recent review of the memoir.
Burian’s courage and will has impacted thousands of people across the globe, and with the help of his children the Burians’ dedication to commemorating the Holocaust and educating future generations will continue to reverberate far into the future.
Link to Andrew Burian’s memoir: “A Boy from Bustina: A Son, a Survivor, a Witness”
Link to Andrew Burian’s speech at Liberty University