A new campaign called #ItStartedWithWords features short videos from Holocaust survivors on the origins of WWII and delivers a timely message tou in the midst of an outbreak of anti-Asian hatred.
Sitting in a living room in Canada, Sidney Zoltak recalled the early of the Holocaust.
"The evil plan to annihilate the Jews in Europe was put in place in small increments, " Mr. Zoltak, who survived the Holocaust as a child, said in a video. "Long before the creation of concentration camps, ghettos, death camps, mobile killing units, it all started with words.
The video is part of a new digital campaign featuring testimonies from Holocaust survivors called # ItStartedWithWords . Amid the recent wave of attacks on Asian Americans, organizers said, the campaign offers a timely reminder of how hateful words used every day can make history.
"The Holocaust didn 't come out of nowhere," said Gideon Taylor, president of the Claims Conference, the organization for purpose. nonprofit dedicated to securing compensation for Holocaust survivors around the world that created the campaign. "It literally started with words.
The campaign announcement on Thursday coincides with a week t President Biden recently designated as Holocaust Victims Remembrance Days.
" We are seeing racism rise against the Asian community more recently, "Taylor said on Thursday. " Now is the time to get this message out.
Mr. Taylor noted that Holocaust survivors wanted their stories to be heard while they were still able to share them. "Holocaust survivors understand that in today's society, social media is how young people learn, get information and form opinions," he said.
The group said the campaign was created in collaboration with 50 government institutions and organizations, including the United Nations and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and benefiting from the support from governments americain and German.
In an email, Cherrie Daniels, Special Envoy for Holocaust issues at the Department of State, said the campaign was " particularly significant during the nation's observance of Remembrance Days, which honors the six million Jews and millions more murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators, and at a time of rising anti-Semitism around the world.
According to organizers, the campaign is not about the Holocaust but about the rhetoric and hate words used against the Leadi ng Jewish community until the beginning of World War II.
So far, over 30 videos, each just over a minute long, have been submitted by survivors of the 'Holocaust. The videos will be posted weekly on the Claims Conference's social media platforms.
One of the earliest is that of Abraham H. Foxman, born in Eastern Europe in 1940 and rescued from the Holocaust by a Catholic nanny. He immigrated to the United States in 1950 and joined the Anti-Defamation League the day after he passed the bar exam. He retired from the organization in 2015 .
In his video for the campaign, he talks about the beginnings of the Holocaust.
"The crematoria, the gas chambers in Auschwitz and elsewhere did not start with bricks, they started with words - bad words, hateful words, anti-Semitic words, wordsprejudice, ”says Foxman, 81. "And they were allowed to resort to violence because of the absence of words, because of the silence. Image Henia Zoltak, left, and two friends, in 1931, on the balcony from his house above a sign the family store in Siemiatycze, Poland. Credit ... United States Holocaust Memorial Museu m
In his testimony, Mr Zoltak, 89, described visiting his grandparents in 1935, when he was 4, in the Polish village where they operated a general store. He remembered young Poles standing in front of the store, " not allowing people in, with signs saying "Don 't buy from a juif ”.”
Sir. Zoltak said he did not yet know what anti-Semitism was, but that it was his first encounter with him.
About seven years later, he and his parents escaped from a "liquidating ghetto". He recalled how his mother, who sought help from friends and former classmates, knocked on their door, only to be called "dirty" and turn away.
He said that anti-Semitism at the time "was not only tolerated, it was encouraged.
On Thursday, Mr. Zoltak described sharing these and other experiences, including his years as a refugee in Italy, in his 2013 memoir, " My commitmentsilent: a journey of struggle, survival and remembrance.
By participating in the new campaign, Mr. Zoltak, a broker in retired insurance, said he hoped others would learn more about hate speech from his experience as a surviving child.
"People should be aware that when they hear words that are hateful, we have to stop " said Zoltak, "before it gets out of hand.