By Zoe Stricker, a participant in the JFCS Holocaust Center’s Conversation Circle 2020
It has never been lost on me that my generation is one of the last to be in contact with survivors of the Holocaust, so when I learned about the JFCS Holocaust Center’s Conversation Circle, I was eager to partake. I was so curious to hear from a survivor about how they navigated the world and what they wanted to impart onto those of us who had decided to listen. By that same token, I was aware that this was to be a conversation, not a lecture, and I was cognizant to make space for all of the topics that could arise.
The desire to speak with Holocaust survivors has always been on my mind. Despite growing up in the Jewish community in San Francisco, with my own grandparents and friends’ grandparents having survived the Holocaust, I was usually too young to be able to converse and ask about their experiences in a meaningful way. Both of my surviving grandparents died before I turned fourteen, and they never spoke about what they had gone through. As I grew older, I wanted to be part of such a learning process, with the ability to engage in a mature manner and discuss what was kept from me when I was young.
As part of Conversation Circle, I listened to a survivor’s testimony that felt deeply important to me. Survivors are physical embodiments of history, and at the same time, part of my community. I feel deeply convicted in my belief that storytelling has the power to change the world, and my world was absolutely changed by hearing Anita’s story. Learning about her gave me a model for resilience, compassion, and understanding. She also taught me a great deal about what happened to the Dutch during World War II, child psychology, and American history that I do not think I would have learned about under different circumstances. I cherish the experience deeply, and still keep in touch with Anita today.