Keeping Holocaust stories alive

March 5, 2009 6:49:53 AM PST
A first of its kind program to make sure stories of the horror of the Holocaust aren't forgotten was being unveiled Wednesday night. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

"I have seen my little sister shot before my eyes," recalled Holocaust survivor Walter Kase. "I live the Holocaust just about every day of my life because I speak about it in schools a lot."

He gives 80 talks a year to various groups, mostly young students.

"To this day, people hate each other and kill each other and it's always because of race, religion or nationality," said Kase.

His is a story hard to tell and difficult to hear.

"I was in five different concentration camps. Towards the end of the war, I was 15 years old. I weighed 64 pounds. I had pyorrhea. I had tuberculosis," said Kase. "I lost everybody that I loved. I came from a very large family. My father was one of 11 siblings. My mother was one of four siblings. They all perished in the gas chambers of Aushwitz."

He's now 79 and knows he won't be here to tell his story forever.

"Survivors like myself won't be here five to 10 years from now," he acknowledged.

So he is part of a first of its kind program that hopes to insure stories like his don't become folklore.

"When the witnesses are no longer here, there will be people who will say that it never happened," said Kane.

The program is called "Through their Eyes -- a survivor's story." It incorporates the videotaped testimony of survivors with the gaps filled in by their children.

"Although it sounds like a very simple concept, to use the videos that you already have to continue the survivors' legacy, no one had come up with this idea before," said Ira Perry with the Holocaust Museum of Houston.

"It's important to have those stories still out there," said Sandy Lessig, whose father was a Holocaust survivor.

Lessig's father died two years ago, and now she carries his torch.

"Combine that survivor's story with the child's narrative, so that the two of us would be telling the story together," she said. "I think it's much more authentic, much more moving for my father's voice to be there. For his face, for him to be telling the story himself."

There are currently eight children of survivors trained to tell their stories, with hopes of training more so that lessons from the lives of people like Walter Kase are long remembered.

"We don't want the Holocaust to just become a footnote in history books," said Kase. "Because it could happen again."

If you would like to schedule a free presentation, email speakers@hmh.org or call 713-942-8000. You can also visit the Holocaust Museum website.

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