Thursday, February 3, 2011

Sobibor Camp Survivor Thomas Blatt Speaks at LA Museum of the Holocaust

This week I returned to the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust. It’s only been a few days since my friend, Holocaust Survivor, Author and Lecturer Henry Oertelt’s death but I wanted to renew my commitment to our film project, now more than ever. Henry's family is generously loaning some of his artifacts to the museum and donating a signed copy of his book, An Unbroken Chain: My Journey Through the Nazi Holocaust, to the museum's library.

Tuesday, I had the pleasure of listening to Holocaust Survivor, Thomas Blatt, the Holocaust Survivor who built the Sobibor Concentration Camp model that is now housed in the new museum. Thomas was on site at the museum for the first time. In 1943, Thomas escaped Sobibor during the prisoners’ uprising. He was only 15 years old. Today, he is 83 years old.

After his presentation, I learned that he is the author of at least 3 books and was a witness in a recent trial against a war criminal. He also was responsible for changing the plaque at the camp that read that thousands of Russians, Poles and others had died there. There was no mention of Jews. After Thomas protested, the plaque was changed to read that Jews, Russians, Poles, and others died there.

The museum director, Mark Rothman gathered Thomas for a photo with the only surviving original founder of the museum, Masha Loen along with another Survivor whose name I did not get, their friends and family, Marcia, a museum curator, and Jon Kean, a filmmaker (Swimming in Auschwitz). Masha was part of a group of Survivors who met at Hollywood High School taking English classes fifty years ago when they decided they should start a museum with a two fold mission: to commemorate the victims, and educate people about the Holocaust. Masha had earlier made the point that Thomas should donate any of his remaining artifacts to the museum, ”This is our home now,” she said. After they took a few pictures, I was invited to join in the photo as a new volunteer and docent. It was an honor to stand with them.

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