Holocaust survivors needed help sharing their stories, so we stepped in

More than 90 survivor stories available online through the Sustaining Memories Project

TORONTO – With antisemitism on the rise in Canada – and worldwide – it is crucial that we preserve and share Holocaust survivor stories. The Azrieli Foundation’s Holocaust Survivor Memoirs Program partnered with the G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education at Toronto Metropolitan University to transcribe the stories of Canadian Holocaust survivors, and these stories are now being shared in an incredible new online exhibit.

The Sustaining Memories Project paired writing partners with Holocaust survivors to help tell their stories and is the first partnered survivor memoir project in Canada.

“As a child of two survivors, my biggest regret was not having a written account of my parents’ experiences during the Holocaust,” says program creator Elin Beaumont, facilitator of education and community initiatives at the Azrieli Foundation’s Holocaust Survivor Memoirs Program. “In time I fear that these oral histories will be lost as they trickle down to the next generations.”

As part of the project, volunteers with a wide range of backgrounds and experiences were expertly trained on storytelling, interviewing, research techniques, and Holocaust history before being paired with Holocaust survivors to transcribe their stories. These transcriptions were then sent to the Azrieli Foundation’s Memoirs Program for editing; they were originally shared only with family and friends, unlike the published books authored by survivors in the Memoirs Program. Now, after years of work, these stories are all available to the public through a digital exhibit.

“Many people within the survivor community could not bring themselves to write a whole book, had missed the opportunity of attaining an education or had been too traumatized to tell their story,” says program partner Paula David, professor of gerontology and former social worker at Baycrest Centre, where she coordinated programs for Holocaust survivors for more than 20 years. “This project gave survivors new opportunities to share their narratives.”

The new online exhibit, featuring 95 stories of survival, hope, suffering and renewal, is accessible through the Holocaust Survivor Memoirs Program’s website. Take a moment to explore the trove of stories, preserved so the next generation can understand the enormity of the Holocaust, one story at a time.       

About the Azrieli Foundation

With a firm belief that everyone has a contribution to make, the Azrieli Foundation has been opening doors, breaking ground, and nurturing networks for more than 30 years. The Foundation – the largest non-corporate foundation in Canada – funds institutions and operates programs in Canada and Israel.

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