Survival: The Holocaust & Hope

In January 2020 join the Nathan and Esther Pelz Holocaust Education Resource Center (HERC), the Harry & Rose Samson Family JCC, and St. John’s on the Lake for a series exploring the Holocaust. 

All programs are free, open to the public, and take place at St. John’s on the Lake at 1840 N Prospect Ave in Milwaukee.


The Holocaust in Film, A Lecture by Dr. Rachel Baum (Friday, January 10 at 3pm)

For years, Holocaust films avoided focusing on hope and survival for fear of misrepresenting the reality of the event. Today, however, scholars and filmmakers recognize the importance of hope and survival as themes for engaging with this subject.  In this presentation, Dr. Baum will provide a brief introduction to each of the films in the series while also exploring the challenges of representing the Holocaust in film.


CANCELLED – The Art of Inventing Hope with Author Howard Reich (Sunday, January 12 at 2pm) 

TO BE RESCHEDULED – “The Art of Inventing Hope: Intimate Conversations with Elie Wiesel,” offers an unprecedented, in-depth conversation between the world’s most revered Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel, and a son of survivors, Howard Reich. During the last four years of Elie Wiesel’s life, he met frequently with Howard Reich in New York, Chicago, and Florida – and spoke with him often on the phone – to discuss the subject that linked them: Reich’s father, Robert Reich, and Wiesel were both liberated from the Buchenwald death camp on April 11, 1945. What had started as an interview assignment from the Chicago Tribune quickly evolved into a friendship and a partnership. Reich and Wiesel believed their colloquy represented a unique exchange between two generations deeply affected by a cataclysmic event. Wiesel said to Reich, “I’ve never done anything like this before,” and after reading the final book, asked him not to change a word. The insights on life, ethics, and memory that Wiesel offers and Reich illuminates will not only help the children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors understand their painful inheritance, but will benefit everyone, young or old. Howard Reich has written for the Chicago Tribune since 1978 and joined the staff in 1983. He is the author of five other books. He has won an Emmy Award and the Chicago Journalists Association named him Chicago Journalist of the Year in 2011.


Surviving: Then & Now with Holocaust Survivor Howard Melton (Monday, January 13 at 3pm)

Howard Melton was born in Kovno, Lithuania on February 13, 1931. He was 10 years old when the war began and was immediately forced into a ghetto. Howard, his mother, and his two sisters were then sent from the ghetto to a labor camp in Latvia to help build the airport. Once there, he volunteered to work on a farm. Howard’s younger sister was sent to Auschwitz in 1943 where she was killed in January of 1945. His mother and older sister were both killed in Stutthof. Howard was sent to the Dachau concentration camp where the conditions were very harsh and people suffered from hunger and exhaustion. In 1945 he was forced to march for ten days. At the end of the march, Howard was rescued by the American troops who were very kind and gave Howard hamburgers and chocolate. At age 14, Howard weighed only 55 pounds. Both Howard and his father survived the war. He moved to New York City in 1949, but later moved to Milwaukee to be near his friend, Albert Beder. Soon after in 1950, he joined the Air Force and was married in 1951.


How to Survive: Viktor Frankl vs. Primo Levi, A Lecture by Dr. Shay Pilnik (Tuesday, January 14 at 3pm)

Dr. Shay Pilnik, Executive Director of the Nathan and Esther Pelz Holocaust Education Resource Center (HERC), will lead a discussion about the experiences, writings, and view-points of two well-known Jewish authors who survived Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust: Primo Levi and Viktor Frankl. Using selected readings from each author, he will walk participants through these two very distinct survival experiences.


Confronting Evil, A Lecture by Dr. Amy Shapiro (Wednesday, January 15 at 3pm)

In writing about her experience of Auschwitz, Charlotte Delbo describes experiences like unending thirst or the witnessing of those sent to the gas chamber. What can be learned from such experiences? Delbo proposes that there is nothing to be learned or gained from them. They amount to “useless knowledge.” Concepts like “useless knowledge” and “incomprehensibility” might be helpful in confronting both the meaning and implications of evil. In this session, we will explore such concepts and try to make sense of examples of what we might identify as evil. In doing  so we will consider what it means to confront evil and how it may enhance our own lives.


In the Shadow of the World Wars, A Musical Performance by Cellist Parry Karp & Pianist Eli Kalman (Sunday, January 19 at 2pm)

Cellist Parry Karp and Pianist Eli Kalman will perform a number of pieces, selected to honor the memory of those killed during the Holocaust. Musical selections will include works by Dmitri Shostakovich, Laurence Sherr, Lera Auerbach, and Ernst Bloch.


Series Co-Sponsors:

Harry & Rose Samson Family JCC

Nathan and Esther Pelz Holocaust Education Resource Center (HERC)

St. John’s on the Lake