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Digital partnership takes Zikaron BaSalon’s Holocaust testimony events global

Joining forces with the USC Shoah Foundation, Bringing Testimony Home program will allow survivors’ stories to be heard globally for generations to come

Israelis watch the testimony of a Holocaust survivor during a meeting as part of 'Zikaron Basalon' project, on the eve of the Holocaust Remembrance Day, in Moshav Kidmat Tzvi, April 7, 2021. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)
Israelis watch the testimony of a Holocaust survivor during a meeting as part of 'Zikaron Basalon' project, on the eve of the Holocaust Remembrance Day, in Moshav Kidmat Tzvi, April 7, 2021. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)

A new digital partnership will allow people across the globe to commemorate Holocaust Remembrance Day with the help of the Israeli Zikaron BaSalon initiative, which brings Holocaust survivors’ stories to groups.

Zikaron BaSalon (literally, “commemoration in the living room”; here, Bring Testimony Home) brings people together in homes, workplaces, and other more intimate environments to speak with survivors.

The program, which is intended as a resource for people to conduct gatherings on their own, has been utilized in thousands of homes, and has cultivated partnerships with organizations spanning from government agencies to Israeli prisons.

Expanding the initiative, the USC Shoah Foundation announced on Monday the launch of a new program whereby potential hosts around the world will be able to receive the tools they need to hold an event under the Zikaron BaSalon/Bring Testimony Home initiative.

Hosts will receive digital kits that include a testimony from a Holocaust survivor, lasting 30-45 minutes.

They will also get educational materials and discussion prompts, providing them with the resources to hold in-person or virtual gatherings to commemorate the Holocaust.

Holocaust survivor Pnina Katzir tells her story to young Israelis, during a salon meeting that was part of ‘Zikaron BaSalon’ project in Jerusalem on April 6, 2021. (Shir Torem/Flash90)

Seven testimonies are currently available in Hebrew, English, and Spanish, as part of the joint initiative.

They include Agnes Adachi, an aide to Swedish diplomat and rescuer Raoul Wallenberg; Dr. Edith Eger, an Auschwitz survivor and successful author and psychologist; Elie Alevy, who experienced the horrors of the Salonika ghetto before being transported to Auschwitz; Erika Gold, who served in the French resistance as a courier; Kurt Thomas, who escaped the Sobibor death camp during the prisoner rebellion of 1943; and Yehuda Bakon, an Auschwitz survivor and well-known Israeli artist.

In her testimony, Eger expressed hope that her story would live on.

“I’m sitting here and knowing that this story is going to be heard again. And my children and grandchildren will know that Grandma, a long, long time ago, was a victim. But today, she’s a survivor,” she said.

Clinical psychologist, professor and author Edith Eger poses during an interview with AFP on May 7, 2019, in Lausanne, Switzerland. (Richard Juilliart/AFP)

The integration of these testimonies into Zikaron BaSalon’s existing initiative will, according to their site, preserve the memory and testimonies of survivors for the future, as well as allowing their stories to be heard in parts of the world where survivors do not reside.

Zikaron BaSalon was designed to connect younger people with Holocaust survivors, as they would meet and hear stories in-person at intimate gatherings on the eve of the annual memorial day.

“We have now become those future generations, and in a world still combatting hatred and intolerance, it is our responsibility to carry survivors’ stories of strength and resilience forward,” the Zikaron BaSalon website states.

As Holocaust survivor numbers dwindle, such an opportunity to hear stories in-person will become more rare.

The COVID-19 pandemic presented additional challenges to the initiative, as lockdowns prevented in-home gatherings. However it also provided the impetus to push toward an online model, with events held over Zoom and using online resources.

Zikaron BaSalon was initially founded in 2011 and says it has enabled 1.5 million people across 60 countries to hear the testimonies of Holocaust survivors, followed by a meaningful discussion.

Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, or Yom Hashoah, is set to begin on Wednesday evening.

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