IRVINE – When George Fogelson speaks to schools about his mother’s experience during the Holocaust, he brings a relative’s passport stamped with a “J” for Jew. And he passes around a yellow star Jewish people were forced to wear by the Nazis.
It helps children better grasp what happened. And it’s a tool the Redondo Beach resident uses to pass on the story of his mother, one of about 10,000 children spared from Hitler’s armies when her parents sent her away to strangers, an effort called the Kindertransport.
Ruth Moll of Beverly Hills shares her experience even more directly. When she volunteers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, she wears the yellow star as a way to spark discussion.
“I call myself walking history,” Moll said.
Sharing the story – keeping it alive – is part of the Kindertransport legacy, according to survivors, their children and grandchildren who gathered at the Irvine Marriott Hotel on Sunday for the end of a three-day conference.
About 50 survivors and 75 descendants and supporters attended the event, held for the first time in Orange County. Participants arrived from as far away as New Jersey and England.
One of Sunday’s panels focused on the legacy of the children from Germany, Austria, Poland and Czechoslovakia sent away by their families to foreign lands in the late 1930s. Most went to England. Some reunited eventually with their families. Most did not.
So what is their legacy? Participants gave several answers: They have a duty to share their story. Be accepting of others. Be vigilant and have the courage to speak out when they see an injustice. Avoid apathy and promote empathy.
“When something bad takes places,” be the first to speak up, said Manfred Lindenbaum, a New Jersey resident who attended with his family. “In Germany, the good people didn’t get up and speak.”
Lisa Kollisch, a second-generation “kinder” from Philadelphia, said there are opportunities every day “to practice tolerance, acceptance and love. That’s also a legacy.”
“It’s not just about standing for the kid who is bullied. It’s how we treat each other,” Kollisch said.
To the younger ones in the room, Marion Wolff of San Luis Obispo advised: “Ask the questions now. We’re not going to be here very long.”
For Ellen Goldsmith of Seal Beach, a second-generation kinder who attended with her mother from Burbank, Susi Goldsmith, the conference provided a place for kinship: “For me, this was an opportunity to pull together the pieces of the past to connect with my mom. And to connect with others.”
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