Die letzten Zeugen - Das Buc


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Diese Geschichte wurde im Projekt "Die Letzten Zeugen" erstellt.

"My feelings of Austria"

Renee Balaban (im Bild links), die Tochter von Susanne Balaban, über ihre Erfahrungen im Projekt.

It was exciting when my mother received word that she was chosen to be part of the “A Letter to the Stars” Program in Austria, and it only got better from there.

The most, “life altering experience in my life” was watching my mother, Suzanne Balaban and my aunt, Ruth Ellinger return to the home of their birth and youth. It was amazing to watch the two sisters return together after 70 years and hear how each of them remembered their youth and the country they once called home. They came back to Vienna, Austria to move forward with their lives 70 years later.

How wonderful it was to see them being treated with love and respect upon their return and watch their faces light up with a smile when apologies were made for the injustices done to them and their families.

We went to Friday night services at the Seitenstetten Gasse Synagogue where my mother was confirmed. She was so delighted to be back to pray one more where she and her family belonged.

When I sat besides my mother and aunt in Parliament we cried together as the names of the children who perished in the Holocaust flew in white script over a screen. We cried for the loss of those children and for my mother and aunt’s cousins who were so young and brave and died in concentration camps. My mother and I looked into each other’s eyes and whispered,  “Never Again.”

How proud I was that my mother was asked to speak in front of more than 10,000 people in Heldenplatz.  She did not speak about what happened to her family, but about tolerance and understanding of other religions and customs. She said that hatred starts at home and it has to stop. My mother challenged the youth of today to become the first generation to bring peace to our world.  She wished them many years of health and good luck and then dedicated the speech to her family who perished in the Holocaust. At that point my aunt stepped up and read the names of our deceased family, who we, the second generation, never had the opportunity to meet.

We continued our journey to Zwettl where my mother’s pen pal, Melanie Katzenschlager and her family live and where Melanie attended school.  We stayed at the lovely Castle Rosenau in the Austrian woods. Attached to it is a museum dedicated to the Free Masons. It was amazing to see their meeting room with authentic furniture and displays of their work and items they owned. There were two glass showcases with medals from Jewish Free Masons who died during Crystal Nacht (The Night of Broken Glass) and a letter from General Eisenhower offering boxes of food for them to distribute during the war.

The next day we went to the Catholic School that Melanie attended and was graduating from this year. As we entered the school, many people came up to us to say hello and welcomed us to the school including the principal, sisters, teachers, and other students.  When we walked into the classroom with the teacher, Frau Magistra Herta Freund-Klopf, I felt the willingness of the students to listen and learn from my mother and aunt who were invited to tell the storey of their youth, what it meant to be forced to leave and the hardships in starting a new life in a new country.  After a slight break Frau Magistra Herta Freund-Klopf asked the students if they would like to hear from the Second Generation Holocaust Survivors. Without a word they turned to listen to us explain how we felt about the Holocaust and the affect it had on us.

At the end of the day we arrived back in town to speak to the Mayor, Town Council, Teachers, Sisters, and the community. I felt that this was an opportunity for my mother and aunt to speak to people their own age and younger generations up close and personal.

What blew my mind was when a young lady stood up and said, “My grandmother and grandfather are Nazis.  My mother and my father are Nazis but I named my daughter Judith and son Aaron from the Jewish Bible.”  I sat there with tears in my eyes and thought, oh God she’s trying to break the chain in her family. Hurray for her. She received a round of applause. During the reception, I looked for the lady to give her a big hug and say “Thank You” but she left before I was able to find her.

I was so moved that when we returned to our hotel room, I sat down and wrote, “Remembrance 2008” which is enclosed.

Now, every evening I look to the heavens and wish upon a star that our relatives who are watching over us know that they will never be forgotten.  Their memory will live in our hearts and their stories shall be told to others.

Thank you to the organizers and everyone involved in the “A Letter To The Stars” Program.

Renee Balaban
Second Generation Holocaust Survivor

Alle Berichte: 1 2 3  
Diese Geschichte wurde im Projekt "Die Letzten Zeugen" erstellt.


By: Renee Balaban

400 Strong they walked straight and proud ...

They came with canes, walkers, and wheel chairs to tell stories of lost youth, lost families and friends – here one day, up in smoke the next day…
They came from America, Israel, Argentina, Australia, and England to see the country of their youth, Austria…
They came to educate, to forgive, but not to forget…

They brought their spouses, children, and grandchildren to experience a place once called home…
They came one last time to a country trying to apologize for bad times…
A country finally realizing their inhumanity to their Jewish citizens…
A country who murdered or exiled scientists, doctors, scholars, artists, business people, laborers, just like them…
A country that murdered friends and others like them…

They left in 1938 and returned in 2008…
They left in 1938 then the doors closed and others couldn’t leave…
They hid, they ran, they were thrown in concentration camps, shot, and hung…
They were treated worse than animals…
Six million were murdered – men, women and children just like us…

They returned in 2008, felt the love and need to know from the second and third generations…

They spoke of their lives before Hilter came into power and they spoke about their lives afterwards.  They also educated and answered questions…

1)    What was your life like in America?
2)    What are your feelings about returning to Austria?
3)    Is it true that Jews were and are very rich?

They answered the questions truthfully…
They returned in 2008 and made lasting impressions on the youth of today…
They returned in 2008 and made lasting friendships with the children and grandchildren of the Nazis who murdered, maimed, and experimented with them, their families, and their friends…

They returned one last time!!!

Alle Berichte: 1 2 3  
Diese Geschichte wurde im Projekt "Die Letzten Zeugen" erstellt.

"Most amazing, life altering experience ..."

Brief von Renee Balaban an das Projektteam.

Your "A Letter To The Stars" Program was the most amazing and life altering experience that my family and I have ever encountered. It is not easy to find the proper way to say, "Thank You", for a job well done. Thank you for your hard work and willingness to teach the youth of Austria about the Holocaust and Austria's role in it. I know that it isn't easy to organize such a large program and big event for so many people and you and your team did an outstanding job. A special thank you from my mother, Suzanne Balaban, my Aunt, Ruth Ellinger, my sister, Eileen Balaban Eisenberg, and my cousins, Alan & Bernadette Ellinger.
To think that my sister, cousins and I would sit with our mothers in a special session of the Austrian Paraliament dedicated to the children who perished in the Holocaust was a special and moving experience. There wasn't a dry eye in the entire place.
To see our mothers on a stage in Heldenplatz talking about tolerance and understanding of other religions, as well as, challenging the students to bring peace and understanding to the world was heart rendering.
To hear our mothers speak the next morning in Zwettl to the students at school and in the evening to the Mayor, Town Council, Sisters, Teachers, and the community was unbelievable.  To listen to unusual questions asked and anwered opened our eyes to misinformation still being handed down from father to son and mother to daughter.
However, I will never forget the lady who received a round of applause when she stood up and said, "My grandmother and grandfather are Nazis, my mother and father are Nazis, but I named my children Judith and Aaron from the Jewish Bible". It led me to believe that she wanted us to know that she broke the chain and is willing to understand others thoughts and beliefs.
We felt the warm welcome, respect and understanding of the need for students and communities to learn and hear what was done to others from the survivors themselves.
I hope that you and your team will continue the education and good works throughout Austria.  Perhaps one day it will spill over into other European countries.  I also hope that the Austrian Government and institutioins will start funding your worthwhile project.
Thank you from the bottom of all of our hearts for such a wonderful experience.
Many newspapers are now going to receive the second article about "The Letter To The Stars" Program and our wonderful and amazing experiences in Austria.
May all three of you remain in good heath.
Renee Balaban

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