Witnesses of Witnesses — Zeugen der Zeitzeugen (Child Survivors Deutschland)
The project “Witnesses of Witnesses” was created as a result of the commemorative event of the association “Initiative 27. Januar e.V.” on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Wannsee Conference 2012 in Berlin. This led to a profound encounter between Holocaust survivor Gita Koifmann from Israel and Marina Müller from Germany. With her question: “What are you doing of the young generation here in Germany to commemorate the Shoah?”, Gita laid the foundation for the organization’s work. Inspired by the speech of the then Federal President Prof. Dr. Horst Köhler to the German Bundestag in 2009, the project was called “Witnesses of Witnesses”. Since June 2020, it is been an independent, non-profit and registered association.
To date, the team has expanded to around 60 volunteer young adults. A network of visits is developing in the individual cities, i.e. young adults regularly visit Shoah survivors and celebrate Jewish festivals together with them. Twice a year, a nationwide regular team meeting takes place.
- Encounters: encounters are facilitated between the last generation of Shoah survivors and the younger generation.
- Commemoration: the memory of the Shoah is kept alive and is passed on to the younger generation.
- Education: antisemitism is countered in its various forms.
- Relations: German-Israeli relations are strengthened through exchange and projects.
Young people interview Holocaust survivors – these conversations are often very deeply formative and lasting for both sides. Hearing the personal stories of individuals is often much more impactful for young people than reading the dates in a history book. The encounter allows them to take on new perspectives. Holocaust survivors are usually very happy when they see young people getting involved and volunteering to deal with the past. This gives hope, expresses respect and appreciation for their experienced history and sets a sign for a more positive future.
The cooperation with schools gives the opportunity to establish a direct contact of Shoah survivors and their families to young people and furthermore inform and get into conversation about topics like Judaism and Israel.
IMPORTANT GENERAL NOTE: Since most of the Shoah survivors are now over 80 years old, the trips are unreasonable for most of them due to their age. Therefore, contemporary witness encounters include reports by their children and grandchildren from their own family history. Through these personal accounts, it becomes clear to students how traumas are inherited and how antisemitism continues to have an effect after 1945. In addition, school / educational institution can be visited with volunteers in order to make the topics mentioned below tangible and understandable for learners in the form of workshops.
Archive of Child Survivors Germany
For reasons of age and health, the association “Child Survivors Deutschland – Überlebende Kinder der Shoah e.V.” (short: CSD) dissolved on 31.12.2021. Now, Witnesses of Witnesses are pleased to be able to make the contents of the Child Survivors, who survived the Shoah as children, available on their website and thus carry on their legacy.
Interviews with Child Survivors and a small archive that feeds on the contents of the former homepage of the Child Survivors is also available on the website. This content reflects the point of view of numerous, very different history witnesses.
These are the four most important core contents that characterize and make up the Witnesses of the Witnesses (Zeugen der Zeitzeugen) project. Here the encounters with the last generation of Holocaust survivors and their children and grandchildren are an important basic element. Through this, the young generation gets a connection to the importance of the active remembrance of the Holocaust and the significance of the state of Israel. These have occured encounters in the last three years in the focus here in Germany and have carried out an exchange for young adults in September 2016 with our cooperation partner in Israel as a pilot project. The German-Israeli relations is lived very practically in the exchange with Jewish and Arab team members from Israel.
The goals here are:
- the participants become multipliers as well as ambassadors of the heart, strengthening German-Israeli relations.
- new joint projects for the future arise from the encounter and the friendship is strengthened
- young people from Germany experience a realistic picture of Israel
- they have the opportunity to get to know people directly on the ground and to immerse themselves in the reality of their lives
- other educational institutions (e.g. schools, associations, institutions, etc.) are encouraged to carry out German-Israeli exchange projects themselves.
Educational trips — Travel to Memorials
Educational trips are organized with the aim of enabling young people to perceive Jewish life in Europe in the past, present and future and to gain a personal connection to it themselves. This education is considered to be particularly effective in the fight against antisemitism.
A short review:
In April 2015, they visited the former Theresienstadt ghetto and Shoah survivors in Prague with a small group and interviewed them about their lives.
In October 2016, they visited the former concentration camp Auschwitz with a group of young people. Previously, they had heard Auschwitz survivor Eva Szepesi talk about her story of survival in Germany.
About half of the team visited the Buchenwald Memorial in June 2017.
In 2018, they were in Krakow with Israeli friends and attended the memorial ceremony at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial on January 27.
In 2019, they accompanied Holocaust survivors from Germany to the old homeland of Transnistria (now Ukraine, Moldova and Transnistria).
In 2020, before the Corona crisis had really come to a head, they were in Israel with a group of young adults.
A compilation of content is available on the website as well as links to content from partners on the topics: Shoah, Antisemitism & Middle East.