Journeys Through the Holocaust

Aftermath and Legacy — The World's Journey through the Holocaust

The Holocaust has left an indelible mark on global society since the end of World War II in 1945. For the global community, the Holocaust and the horrors of World War II demonstrated the urgent need to codify universal human rights and values. It also presented the challenge of punishing the guilty. War crimes, from Nuremberg to the Eichmann Trial and beyond, have allowed the international community to continue the journey of reckoning that it started in 1945. In 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. These documents represented a turning point in international law and demonstrated a certain commitment to the prevention of future tragedies of such massive scale. As Elizabeth Holtzman, one of 62 war crimes trial participants in the Visual History Archive, explains in her testimony, telling the stories of the past and bringing the guilty to justice are two ways of attempting to prevent crimes against humanity in the future.

The prevention of future tragedies is also a central component of global efforts to memorialize the Holocaust. Memorialization is another kind of journey. It is seen through the existence of museums, the transformation of sites of murder into sites of memory, physical and online archives, performances, film, art, and many other forms of expression and representation. In 1994, the USC Shoah Foundation began an effort to document the breadth and depth of experiences of the journey through the Holocaust, and, twenty years later, we are expanding the archive’s holdings to include victims of other genocides and crimes against humanity. The process that began 20 years ago and has already documented life stories from 58 countries will continue as part of the world’s journey of reckoning. Lajos Cséri provides a glimpse of what giving testimony means to him, and what he hopes it will mean for the world.

The task of memorializing a period of time that impacted so many millions of lives is complex. Part of honoring the victims is celebrating the living and those who helped them to survive. Yad Vashem- The Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority founded a commission in 1963 that officially recognizes the extraordinary heroic actions and deeds of non-Jews who risked their own lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. Rescuers are conferred with the honorific status of “Righteous Among the Nations” (Hasidei umot haolam). The Visual History Archive contains 773 testimonies in 15 languages that discuss Righteous Among the Nations, and 823 testimonies in 18 languages about the recognition of aid givers in general. Betty Berz, whose testimony you see here, participated in the process of securing this honor for the Bastian family who saved her life by hiding her in Paris during the war.

Journeys through the Holocaust mean different things to different people. This exhibit opened with an overview of the sheer geographic distance covered during the Holocaust. People were displaced to the other side of the globe, to a neighboring country, to a country thousands of kilometers away. Many did not return. But some did. And those who did return rebuilt their lives, told their stories, and helped guide the world through the journey through the Holocaust that continues through today.

Aftermath and Legacy UNESCO 2014 Exhibit

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Aftermath and Legacy

Betty Berz

Language: French

Betty Berz (née Sagal) was born on June 22, 1926 in Kyiv, USSR (today, Ukraine). The family—Betty, her mother Marie, her father Boris, and her younger sister Rachel—immigrated to Paris in 1929.

When war broke out in France in 1940, Betty was evacuated with other Parisian children, stayed briefly at a boarding school in Gers, then returned to Paris, where she was subjected to anti-Jewish measures, including wearing the yellow star. In June 1942, Betty and her family were warned about roundups and managed to avoid the Velodrome d’Hiver roundup. They took refuge in various places before settling in a room in the 11th arrondissement in Paris, where they stayed for two years with the Bastian family.

After the territory was liberated by U.S. armed forces and French resistance fighters in 1944, Betty’s parents engaged in a court battle to take back their apartment, which had been rented out, unbeknownst to them, during the war. In June 1991, the Bastian family was honored by Yad Vashem with the honorific Righteous Among the Nations for saving Jews, including Betty.

The interview was conducted on July 24, 1996 in La Garenne-Colombes, France; interviewer: Lucie Caries; videographer: Sylvain Rigollot.

  • Betty Berz

    Language: French

    Betty Berz (née Sagal) was born on June 22, 1926 in Kyiv, USSR (today, Ukraine). The family—Betty, her mother Marie, her father Boris, and her younger sister Rachel—immigrated to Paris in 1929.

    When war broke out in France in 1940, Betty was evacuated with other Parisian children, stayed briefly at a boarding school in Gers, then returned to Paris, where she was subjected to anti-Jewish measures, including wearing the yellow star. In June 1942, Betty and her family were warned about roundups and managed to avoid the Velodrome d’Hiver roundup. They took refuge in various places before settling in a room in the 11th arrondissement in Paris, where they stayed for two years with the Bastian family.

    After the territory was liberated by U.S. armed forces and French resistance fighters in 1944, Betty’s parents engaged in a court battle to take back their apartment, which had been rented out, unbeknownst to them, during the war. In June 1991, the Bastian family was honored by Yad Vashem with the honorific Righteous Among the Nations for saving Jews, including Betty.

    The interview was conducted on July 24, 1996 in La Garenne-Colombes, France; interviewer: Lucie Caries; videographer: Sylvain Rigollot.

  • Elizabeth Holtzman

    Language: English

    Elizabeth Holtzman was born on August 11, 1941 in New York, NY, United States. Her father, Sidney, was an attorney and her mother was a college professor. Elizabeth graduated from Brooklyn’s Abraham Lincoln High School in 1958 and Radcliffe College in 1962. During the summer of 1963, after her first year of law school at Harvard, Elizabeth travelled to Albany, GA, to assist civil rights lawyer C.B. King in fighting for justice. She graduated from Harvard Law School in 1965 and entered public service.

    In 1972, at the age of 31, Elizabeth was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. She was then, and continues to be, the youngest woman ever to serve in the U.S. Congress. She worked there for 19 years and gained a reputation for asking tough questions. Notably, Elizabeth helped pass legislation to deport Nazi war criminals who were living in the United States. She won national attention for her role on the House Judiciary Committee during Watergate. She also sat on the subcommittee hearing President Ford’s testimony about the Nixon pardon. After leaving Washington, Elizabeth served as the District Attorney for New York City as well as City Comptroller. She also set up her own law practice and published a memoir in 1996 entitled Who Said It Would Be Easy: One Woman’s Life in the Political Arena. Together with Cynthia Cooper, she co-authored Cheating Justice: How Bush and Cheney Attacked the Rule of Law and Plotted to Avoid Prosecution-and What We Can Do about It (Beacon Press, 2012).

    The interview was conducted on August 23, 2000 in New York, NY, United States; interviewer: Nancy Fisher; videographer: Yitzhak Gol.

  • Lajos Cśeri

    Language: Hungarian

    Lajos Cséri (name at birth Lajos Klein) was born on January 22, 1928 in Hajdúböszörmény, Hungary, in a secular Jewish family. Lajos had a brother, Gyula, and a sister, Anna. He attended a Protestant school in Sárrétudvari, where he spent most of his childhood.

    In 1940 his father, Viktor, was conscripted to forced labor and sent to Hajdúhadház, where he fell ill and died in 1942. In the meantime, Lajos moved to Szentes, in the county of Csongrád, to live with his aunt. When anti-Jewish measures were enacted in Hungary in 1942, Lajos had to perform forced labor for Levente—a paramilitary youth organization of teenagers serving in Hungarian auxiliary forces. On May 9, 1944 Hungarian authorities forced the Jews of Szentes into a ghetto established in the town. The ghetto was evacuated on June 16 to a brick factory in Szeged, from where Lajos was soon deported to the Auschwitz II-Birkenau death camp in Poland. From there, he was subsequently transferred to the Dachau, Kaufering, and München-Allach concentration camps in Germany. Lajos was liberated by the U.S. armed forces in München-Allach on April 30, 1945.

    Lajos and Gyula were the only survivors of the entire Cséri family. After liberation, interested in fine art, Lajos graduated from the College of Art in Budapest and became a renowned sculptor. His plaque of Dürer is exhibited in Nuremberg and the one of Van Gogh is in Amsterdam. Lajos taught technique of portraiture, small sculpture, and medal art at the State University of New York, Cortland. From 1959 to his retirement he worked, in significant positions, at the Adult Education Institute, the Arts Fund, and the Hungarian Ministry of Culture.

    The interview was conducted on December 7, 1998 in Budapest, Hungary; interviewer: Peter Aradi; videographer: Zoltan Tokaji.