Holocaust Survivor: Zev Kedem Shares with Cohort V


Zev Kedem and Hana Green

Earlier this year, Hana Green, a student in Cohort V, met Holocaust survivor Zev Kedem. She and Dr. Yael Granot-Bein invited him to share in a Research Forum. We were very fortunate to hear his story. Here’s what he shared:

The Germans invaded Poland in 1939, Zev was only 5 years old. He and his sister were on holiday, which was cut short, his mother made them leave early. Zev remembers being so upset, he said, “Little did I know that this darkness of the Holocaust would pursue me for six years.” They took the train back which stopped short of home, he and his family had to walk through Krakow in the middle of the night, to their grandparent’s home.

Continue reading


Alexa talks about AMCHA


Q: What will you be doing at with AMCHA?
A: At AMCHA, I will be working one on one with a Holocaust survivor. Visiting and spending time with them once a week. It’s an opportunity for survivors to develop a new connection with someone and for me it’s a huge privilege to hear their story.

Q: What makes you most excited to be working with AMCHA ?
A: AMCHA is a very special organization that does a huge service to Holocaust survivors and their children, the opportunity to develop a working relationship with them is a rare opportunity.

Q: What brought you working with AMCHA?
A: I was attracted to working with AMCHA for personal reasons. My grandmother was a Holocaust survivor and I was lucky to have had the chance to spend time with her in her later years after I moved to Israel. She passed away two years ago, but I will always treasure our time together. To meet and spend time with another survivor, someone else’s grandmother, is not only an amazing learning opportunity but also an opportunity to do something good for my soul.

Q: Who will you be working with? or who would you like to volunteer with?
A: The volunteer coordinator at AMCHA has been very helpful in pairing me with a survivor who can help with my thesis research. My area of study within Holocaust research is on the psychological impact of the Holocaust for women on motherhood and family life post Holocaust. I have been set up with a female survivor who is open to discussing this topic with me. This is a primary resource that I could never have found elsewhere.

Q: Anything else you would like to add?
A: AMCHA is a wonderful organization dedicated to providing counseling and trauma services for Holocaust survivors and their children. I am honored to have the opportunity to work with them.

Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program?  You can find the application and more information at our website

A Visit with the Livnat Family

image_1   Holocaust survivor Yitzhak Livnat came to meet the students in the 4th cohort and share his incredible story with them. Yitzhak Livnat was accompanied by his wife and four children. The Livnat family are generous donors to the program that is named in honor of them – the Weiss- Livnat International MA in Holocaust Studies.

Livnat shared his story of survival from Auschwitz with our students. He spoke about the deportation, the impact of his experiences on his family relationships and his faith, the death march to Austria, how he managed to survive, and his experiences in Israel after emigrating following the war. Livnat’s memories were vivid, especially the sensations including sounds and smells, and full of raw emotion. His ability to recall the names of the Kapo and other prisoners was remarkable.


Livnat spoke about the horrors of the deportation and his time traveling in the confined cattle car. Upon arrival at Auschwitz he was separated from his younger sister who was murdered in the gas chambers. Livnat spoke about his anger at G-d when he realized what had happened to his sister and how he came to the painful conclusion that there is no G-d, and explained that if there was a G-d he wouldn’t allow such things to happen. After being condemned to death, Livnat was saved by a Kapo who put him in a different barrack so he would escape the fate of the other children he had previously been with. A Greek Jew from Salonika comforted Livnat that night; they were reunited in Israel years later and remained close friends.


On January 18, 1945 Livnat was forced on a death march into Austria along with the SS officers that evacuated Auschwitz as the Red Army approached. Livnat described this as the instance in which he came closest to giving up. He couldn’t keep marching and sat down in the snow. Livnat hoped and waited for an SS officer to put a bullet in his head. Instead the officer kicked him and told him to get up because he was too young to die. Livnat shared that it took him awhile to admit that this SS officer saved his life, as he didn’t want to give him any “good points.” Upon arriving in Mauthausen Livnat was reunited with his father. Despite Mauthausen being pleasant compared to Auschwitz Livnat said this was a terrible time as his father could no longer be a father to him. Their roles had switched and this was very hard.


After the war Livnat returned home only to find that his house was occupied by a woman who wouldn’t let him in, and his own dog barked at him. Following this experience Livnat immigrated illegally to Palestine but he was caught by the British and interned in Cyprus. Upon being released and coming to Palestine Livnat was separated from the other children on the kibbutz and told not to talk to them. People assumed he must have done terrible things to survive the Holocaust such as killing others. Livnat ultimately ran away from the kibbutz and joined the Haganah and later the IDF. Livnat recalled that he wanted to hold a weapon in order to feel safe.


At the conclusion of Livnat’s story his eldest son spoke to our students. He compared speaking about the Shoah to the commandment from the hagaddah to tell the story of the exodus from Egypt. He said it is important to talk about the Shoah but never to be victimized, and that the main lesson is we can’t forget what happened but we must move forward. The night closed with our students getting the chance to speak personally with Yitzhak Livnat and thanking him for sharing his story and his support which has enabled their studies.

Yitzhak Livnat and his family have come to mean so much to our program. They have invested in our success, and embrace each cohort with warmth.  We know that the Livnat family’s visits inspire each of our cohorts to contribute high quality and meaningful research to the field of Holocaust Studies.

Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program?  You can find the application and more information at our website: http://holocaust-studies.haifa.ac.il/

Oral History & Testimony with Dr. Bea Lewkowicz

IMG_2045Our students participated in a special seminar with Dr. Bea Lewkowicz, a social anthropologist and oral historian, and director of two oral history projects, the Association of Jewish Refugees (AJR) Refugee Voices Audio-Visual Testimony Archive and Sephardi Voices UK. Dr. Lewkowicz is a member of the Research Centre for Austrian and German Exile Studies, University of London. She directed and produced many testimony-based films and has curated several exhibitions, such as Continental Britons and Double Exposure.  The subject of her presentation was “Working with testimonies: The AJR Refugee Voices Archive as a Resource for Learning and Scholarship.”

Lewkowicz began by talking about her own journey as an anthropologist and oral historian taking testimony from members of the Jewish community in Salonika. While working on her PhD Lewkowicz was confronted by the difference between the fields of anthropology and history, and the latter’s greater focus on accuracy and the identity of the person giving the testimony.  Following the completion of her PhD Lewkowicz worked for the Shoah Foundation an experience that taught her how to more accurately collect testimony.

Lewkowicz is currently the director of AJR and the second portion of her talk was devoted to the testimonies done through that project and archive.  It is a collection of 150 testimonies but they are currently working on adding 30 new testimonies to the collection, some of which are conducted with child survivors. Lewkowicz discussed the importance of having themes and open-ended questions to allow the interviewee to create their own narrative. She discussed the importance of allowing silences as part of an interview and how body language and gestures are key aspects of testimony as a primary source. Sometimes the body language can contradict the spoken words; hence Lewkowicz’s caution not to rely on a transcript but to watch the actual video. Transcripts can have mistakes and don’t reflect the tone, facial expressions, and gestures of the interviewee and thus can’t be considered a primary source. Lewkowicz emphasized the need to consider memory when dealing with testimony. A key facet is not the historical content but how the individual remember what occurred. She also cautioned young researchers to contextualize all testimony, to consider who, why, and how it was collected.

In the final portion of her talk Lewkowicz discussed the educational outputs of AJR, which have included three films and an exhibition that accompanied one film to Austria, called Double Exposure.  Lewkowicz also discussed in more detail the new interviews they are conducting. She discussed the values and challenges associated with interviewing those who were too young to remember, and the different types of questions the interviewer must ask in those cases. She mentioned that the new interviews open up the opportunity to ask new questions such as ones about gender and mental health.

It was inspiring for our students to hear from Dr. Lewkowicz about her masters and PhD research in Salonika and the various jobs conducting oral history that she has held. Lewkowicz conveyed the enormous potential that oral history interviews and testimony have for scholarship, and gave our students many insightful suggestions for how to work effectively with such sources.

Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program?  You can find the application and more information at our website: http://holocaust-studies.haifa.ac.il/

Shaya Harsit: From Survival to the Skies

IMG_5585In November Holocaust survivor and former member of the Israeli Air Force (IAF) Shaya Harsit came to share his incredible story with our students. Mr. Harsit is the managing director of the From Survival to the Skies organization and author of A New Sky and a New Land.  During the 1956 Suez Crisis 144 pilots in the IAF were Holocaust survivors, although this was not known at the time. Forty-four of the pilots are still alive. Once members of the IAF, including Harsit, realized that a significant number of Holocaust survivors served in the IAF they established the From Survival to the Skies organization to collect their testimonies and honor their service.

Harsit primarily spoke to our students about his story of survival during the Holocaust. He was born to a wealthy family in Warsaw and he had older half siblings from both of his parents’ first marriages. Upon the German invasion, when Shaya was five years old, his father fled because he was involved in political and religious organizations that made him a likely target of the Nazis. A few days later Shaya and his mother left Warsaw to join his father in the east in Soviet territory. Soviet forces arrested the family accusing them of being hostile to the USSR because they had Polish citizenship. Shaya was interned in a camp with his parents. Life in the camp was difficult and there wasn’t enough food.

After the Nazi invasion of the USSR on the 22 June, 1941 Shaya and his family awoke to find the Soviet guards had abandoned the camp and they were free to leave. Shaya’s family travelled to Uzbekistan and then to Kazakhstan.  Despite both parents being employed the family suffered from hunger. Shaya’s father thought he would be better off in an orphanage and so he took Shaya to one despite his mother’s objections. Shaya escaped from the orphanage that first evening and he walked all night on his own to return to his mother who fainted when he knocked on the door and vowed never to be separated from him again. Interestingly enough, if Shaya had stayed at the orphanage he would have been taken to Palestine as one of the children of Teheran.


After the war ended Shaya’s family returned to Warsaw and were then in a displaced persons camp in Germany. In the DP Camp Shaya remembers meeting General Eisenhower and reciting a poem for him. Shaya’s father had always wanted to move to Palestine and the family boarded the Exodus to travel there. The ship and its passengers were arrested by the British upon arrival in Haifa and were not allowed to disembark. Instead the ship was sent back to Germany. Only after the creation of the state of Israel were Shaya and his family able to make aliyah. Shaya recalled that no one wanted to hear the stories of survival during the Holocaust and he himself wanted to become a true Israeli and leave all of the past behind. Shaya initially wanted to be a paratrooper but he became a pilot instead and served in the Israeli Air force until 1982.

Shaya Harsit’s story fascinated our students. It was uplifting to hear about a family who was able to stay together and survive despite all the odds. It was equally incredible to hear how Shaya Harsit forged an Israeli identity through his dedicated service in the IAF.

Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program?  You can find the application and more information at our website: http://holocaust-studies.haifa.ac.il/