Juliane Heyman’s story of escaping the Holocaust is as harrowing as the rest of her life has been inspirational. At age 12, she and her family were forced to flee their home in what is now Gdansk, Poland. In a scene that could have inspired The Sound of Music, she first had to perform in a violin recital so as not to raise suspicion. During her family’s four-year quest for safe haven, she and her brother eluded capture by German soldiers by pretending not to understand the language. They lived in Paris during the occupation, got by on forged papers, and crossed the Pyrenees to Spain. Finally, they made it to the U.S. via freighter in late 1941.
In the decades since, Heyman has focused on helping change other lives for the better. She became the Peace Corps’ first female training officer and later worked as an advisor for educational and social projects throughout Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Today, she shares her story with at-risk youths to teach about resilience. She has been a staunch supporter of USC Shoah Foundation’s mission and Annual Fund.
“The stories in the archives have the potential to change lives,” she says. Knowing she will not always be around to tell people about what happened firsthand, Heyman is grateful for her testimony’s inclusion in the Visual History Archive, which enables viewers to “learn what can lead to injustice, bigotry, intolerance, prejudice, and persecution,” she says.
“Future generations will have this unique educational experience of viewing stories not only of horror and crime against humanity, but also of the hope and resistance of survivors,” she adds. “They will surely be inspired to be active and more tolerant, develop empathy, and accept others in working for justice and peace for all.”