The Florida Holocaust Museum Speakers’ Bureau

NOTE: As concern about the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues, until further notice, speaker engagements will only be possible online through our “Conversation with a Survivor” program.

To book a speaker for your organization, please fill out the form. Speakers can be booked for an event at your school/organization or to meet with your audience online. Please note that while there is no fee to book a speaker, some of our Survivors will need transportation from your organization.

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Holocaust Survivors

Jackie Albin

Jacqueline (Jackie) Albin was born in Belfort, France in 1937, two years before the beginning of World War II. When Jackie was two years old, her father was drafted into the French army where he served from 1939-1942. Jackie and her mother lived with her grandparents in Gex, a town in France near the Switzerland border, that had become part of the occupied zone. In 1942, her grandparents were sent to Auschwitz where they were gassed on their arrival.
In 1944, when the Germans were losing the war, Jackie, her mother, her newly born sister, and a group of others fled to the mountains because it was becoming more and more dangerous for them. Her father, who had joined the French Resistance, stayed behind to fight. After the war ended, Jackie’s mother was able to reunite with her mother and brothers–German Jews who managed to leave Germany in time and who were already living in Chicago.


Ellen Bernstein (née Herschmann)

Born in Bonn, Germany in 1928. She comes from a conservative Jewish family. Her mother was a homemaker, her father was a furniture salesman. In order to escape the Nazi persecution of Jews, Ellen’s parents immigrated to the United States with their two daughters in 1938. Ellen kept an autograph book filled with notes from her friends and relatives, many of whom did not survive. She also took her favorite doll which got damaged during their trip to the United States. Ellen was heartbroken for her doll, but she was happy to be in America. The family had to rebuild their life from scratch. They didn’t speak English and it was hard to find a job. But her parents never complained – they were grateful to be safe in New York. Many of Ellen’s friends and family members who stayed in Germany perished in the Holocaust.


Betty Grebenschikoff (née Kohn)

Born in Berlin, Germany in 1929. Betty had an older sister Edith. Betty’s birth name was Ilse. Her mother was a homemaker while her father worked as a salesman for a stationary company. The family spoke German at home and took part in German cultural life. They observed Jewish holidays and went to synagogue services. Betty and Edith went to a Jewish school. They did not experience any hostility before the Nazis came to power. The situation changed after 1933 when neighbors stopped talking to Betty’s family. Children experienced name calling and physical violence. In order to escape Nazi persecution and a pending arrest of her father, the family looked for ways to leave Germany. Eventually, they emigrated to Shanghai, China in 1939. They settled in Hongkew, a poor section of Shanghai where most European Jewish refugees lived. The family had to learn English. Children attended an English school. After the war, Betty met her future husband in Shanghai. The family then moved to Australia and finally settled in the United States in 1953. In the United States, Betty was reunited with her parents and sister.


Edward Herman

Born in Warsaw, Poland in 1931. During the Holocaust, Edward with his mother and sister were forced to live in the Warsaw ghetto. At great risk, his mother would leave the ghetto walls and, passing as a Christian, she would buy food to bring back to her children. Eventually, she was able to pay a guide to have Edward cross over to Budapest, Hungary. In Budapest, he was abandoned by a Jewish man who was supposed to take care of him. Edward lived on the streets until an orphanage for Jewish children was formed. At the end of 1944, he was liberated. He was reunited with his mother after 3 years. His sister also survived. It took the family 10 years to reunite with Edward’s father. Most of Edward’s relatives died in the Holocaust.


Halina Herman (née Kramarz)

Born in Warsaw, Poland in 1939. Her father was a physician and was sent away by the Germans to one of the slave-labor camps in April 1941. Halina never saw him again. Halina’s mother obtained false papers and got a job as a maid in Cracow. She placed Halina with a non-Jewish family who raised her as a Christian child. After the war, Halina was reunited with her mother and continued to go to church until the mother revealed their Jewish identity to her in 1949. They went to France where they stayed until they were able to immigrate to Canada. Most of Halina’s immediate family died in the Holocaust.

 

Pieter Kohnstam

Pieter Kohnstam was born in Amsterdam in 1936. His parents, Hans and Ruth Kohnstam, had fled to Amsterdam, the Netherlands from Germany in the early days of the Nazi regime. In Amsterdam, the Kohnstam family lived downstairs from the family of Anne Frank. Pieter’s mother became a close friend of Edith Frank, and Anne became Pieter’s babysitter. Pieter’s parents decided to flee Amsterdam as Nazi persecution of Jews in the Netherlands increased. The Kohnstams reached safety in Argentina after a dangerous, year-long journey through Belgium, France, and Spain.


Roland Levi

Roland Levi was born in Antwerp, Belgium in 1939. He was living there with his father, mother, and older sister, Nadya in 1940 when the German army conquered Belgium. In 1944 Roland’s mother and father were arrested and taken to the Dossin Barracks in Mechelen, an assembly point for Jews. From there they were transferred to Auschwitz. Nadya and Roland remained hidden at the congregation of Notre Dame de Sion but were soon arrested by the Gestapo. They were taken to an orphanage in Wezembeek and set to be transported to Auschwitz. The orphanage director, Marie Blum Albert, was able to negotiate with guards at the train station and secured the release of numerous Jewish wards of the orphanage, including Nadya and Roland. The children were returned to the orphanage. Roland and Nadya were liberated in September 1944 and reunited with their parents who also survived. Roland settled in the United States in the 1960s. He lives in the Tampa Bay Area and speaks to students and adults about this experiences during the Holocaust.

 

Herta Pila (née Neuburger)

Born in Munich, Germany in 1932. She had two siblings. The family owned a leather business. In 1935, after the Nuremberg Laws, the family had to move out from their house. Herta’s mother began her efforts to have the family emigrate from Germany. First, she sent Herta’s siblings to Italy but had to bring them back when the family’s bank accounts were closed and she had no money to pay for the boarding school in Italy. Then, a cousin from New York offered to help bring them to the United States and vouched for them but Herta’s father was arrested on Kristallnacht in 1938 and sent to Dachau. He was released a few months later but due to the mistreatment in the camp his health was failing and he died in 1941. The family also lost their business. Herta’s siblings were sent to forced labor, the sister was eventually sent to Theresienstadt. Herta and her mother were first saved by their landlady and then hid in different air-raid bunkers during the bombings. Eventually, Herta worked on a farm, pretending to be a Gentile. Her brother hid in the mountains. Herta was reunited with her siblings and mother at the end of the war.


Jerry Rawicki

Born in Plock, Poland in 1927. Jerry was raised in an assimilated Jewish family. He had two older sisters, Stefania and Felicja. His father was a printer but worked as a manager for a factory, mother was a homemaker. After Germany invaded Poland, the family was deported from Plock to Bodzentyn. In order to escape an impending arrest, Jerry’s father decided to go to Warsaw. Jerry and Felicja also escaped and hid in the forest. Eventually, Jerry joined his father in the Warsaw ghetto while Felicja passed as a Gentile and worked in a café outside of the ghetto. Jerry joined the Jewish Fighting Organization in the ghetto as a courier. He was part of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising until he escaped to the “Aryan” side. Jerry was briefly reunited with Felicja and was then rescued by a total stranger, Janusz Rybakiewicz. After leaving Warsaw, he stayed in Lublin, where he was liberated by the Soviet Army in 1944. Jerry’s parents and Stefania did not survive.


John Rinde

Born in Przemysl, Poland in 1935. John had one sister. The family owned a toy factory in Prezmysl. After the Soviets invaded eastern Poland in 1939, they confiscated the toy factory and introduced food rationing for the local population. John’s family was forced out of their apartment. They moved to Lvov, Poland where they found an apartment and John had a tutor. In 1941, after Germany invaded Lvov, local Jews were forced to into a ghetto where they spent at least six months. John’s family was forced to share an apartment with another family. When roundups and deportations began, John’s mother decided to smuggle the family out – first the children, then then her husband and herself. She obtained false papers and the family escaped to Lublin, where they lived under assumed identities as Polish Catholics until the end of the war. They were joined there by John’s uncle, aunt and their two daughters who hid at the Rindes’ place. After the liberation, the family moved to Paris. John’s younger brother was born there. In 1952, when John was 17 years old, they came to the United States.


Toni Rinde (née Igel)

Born in Przemysl, Poland in 1940. Toni’s mother was a bookkeeper in her parents’ dry goods store, her father was an agricultural engineer. After the German invasion, Jews of Przemysl were forced into a ghetto. The situation of the Przemysl Jews was rapidly deteriorating. One day, Toni’s parents were approached by a woman they didn’t know who offered to take care of their baby. They agreed – at great risk – and Toni lived with Ms. Konoysna for 3 and a half years. She passed as Ms. Konoysna’s niece and had false papers. When roundups and deportations started in the ghetto, Toni’s father arranged an escape for his wife, brother, father, and himself. They hid in the woods and people’s attics and basements. After the liberation, Toni was reunited with her parents and moved with them to Katowice, Poland where her father became the head of the Jewish community. Due to a threat from the local population, the family had to move. Eventually the family was able to immigrate to the United States where Toni met her husband John. Toni’s numerous relatives died in the Holocaust.


Lisl Schick (née Porges)

Born in Vienna, Austria in 1927. Her father was an accountant and her mother was a homemaker. When the Nazis began persecuting Jews, Lisl’s parents decided to send Lisl and her 7-year-old brother Walter on the Kindertransport, a rescue operation that offered refuge in England to 10,000 Jewish children. Lisl’s father was transferred to England by the bank he worked for but, because of his German citizenship, was soon arrested as an enemy alien and sent to the Isle of Man. Her mother was able to obtain a visa for the United States and came to New York, trying to bring the family there. In England, Lisl and Walter were placed in a boarding school and then in separate families but lived nearby so Lisl continued to take care of him. The family was reunited with Lisl’s mother in New York after 6 years. Lisl was 17 years old upon arriving in the United States. Lisl’s grandparents and other relatives died in the Holocaust.


Marie Silverman (née Berkovic) 

Marie was born in 1931 and lived with her sister Jeannette and their parents in Antwerp, Belgium when World War II began. After Germany invaded Belgium, the family escaped to France. For a while, non-Jews hid them on a farm but when the roundups began, the family was captured and separated: the sisters with their mother were placed in an internment camp at Rivesaltes, France while their father was sent to a different camp.

After 9 months, Marie and Jeannette’s mother managed to smuggle her daughters out of Rivesaltes. They were hiding with other refugees in Vence, France. They were then briefly reunited with the parents who managed to escape but the father soon died as a result of the mistreatment he had endured in the camp.

Two partisan couriers took the sisters across the Pyrénées Mountains on foot from Vence to Barcelona, Spain. Marie and Jeannette lived with their aunt and uncle and then came to the United States. Once here, they were placed in an orphanage and with foster families until their mother was able to reunite with them in 1949.


Max Weisglass

Max Weisglass was born in the Polish city of Borszczów, which is in present-day Ukraine, on September 28, 1936. By the time he was eight, he and his parents had survived the German actions in the Borszczów ghetto and its ultimate liquidation by hiding in a series of underground bunkers. In July of 1944, after 10 months of hiding in a bunker under a family friend’s home, his family was liberated by the Russian army. In October of 1948, his family sailed for Canada, where Max grew up and obtained an education. He has lived in the United States since 1976, and now resides in Punta Gorda, FL.

 

Mary Wygodski (née Tabachowicz)

Born in Vilna, Poland (now Lithuania), in 1925. Mary had younger siblings: two sisters and one brother. Her father was a businessman, her mother was a homemaker. When the Nazis took over in 1941, the family was forced into the Vilna ghetto. Mary’s family lived in one room. During the ghetto liquidation, Mary was forcefully separated from her family. She would never see them again. She was sent to several concentration and slave-labor camps. Her father and brother were deported to the Klooga concentration camp in Estonia where they perished. Her mother and little sisters were murdered during the Vilna ghetto liquidation. After the liberation Mary moved to Israel where she met her future husband. Eventually the family moved to the United States where Mary worked as a kindergarten teacher. Mary is the sole survivor of her immediate family.


Second Generation (Children of Holocaust Survivors)

David Baras

David is the son of Holocaust Survivors and speaks about his parents’ experiences and their effects on him and his family. Besides being a speaker, David is a docent and an active member of the Second Generation group (Generations After) at The Florida Holocaust Museum. As a retired medical doctor, David brings  clinical insights to his parents’ experiences and an understanding of their long term impact. By understanding his parents’ past, David is able to demonstrate how they relate to the present in a way that is understood by children and adults alike.

David is married to Mary Jo Baras, who is also a docent at The Florida Holocaust Museum, and has 3 adult children and 2 grandchildren. David and Mary Jo reside in St. Petersburg, Florida.

 

Harry Heuman

Harry Heuman is a docent and a speaker at The Florida Holocaust Museum and regularly presents information about the history of the Holocaust as well as his parents’ stories to Hillsborough, Pasco & Pinellas County School Districts grades 6 – 12. Harry was a presenter at Miami University in March 2018. Harry’s parents were survivors of the Holocaust. In addition to his parents, the only other survivors were one grandparent and an aunt and uncle. Subsequent to his father’s liberation from Dachau and his mother’s liberation from Auschwitz, Harry was born in a Displaced Persons Camp in southern Germany.

Harry is a member of the Sunrise St. Petersburg Rotary Club and a former member of the Hyde Park & Lutz Rotary Clubs. He has served District 6890 in various District and Club positions, including being the Team Leader for a Group Study Exchange to Australia in 2006. He has also graduated from the Rotary Leadership Institute. Harry has served many years on the Board of Directors of The Florida Holocaust Museum, Hillsborough Achievement Resources Center and is a graduate of Leadership Hillsborough.

In June 2012, Harry retired from Hillsborough County’s Planning and Growth Management Department with 29 years of service in various managerial and administrative positions. He also has 15 years of professional experience in other jurisdictions throughout the country. Harry has authored many public documents and has been published through an international entity. He has a BA (Sociology & Political Science) from Illinois Wesleyan University and a MUP (Master of Urban Planning) from Texas A&M’s College of Architecture. Subsequent to his retirement Harry established H3 Development Solutions, Inc. to guide others through the “Amazing Maze” of governmental land development regulations.

Harry resides in St. Petersburg. He has two children and five grandchildren.

 

Clara Kahn

Clara Kahn is the daughter of Holocaust survivors. Both her parents were from southeastern Poland. Clara’s parents experienced both Russian and German occupation during the war. Clara’s mother Sally Kleinberg lived with her mother, father, and three sisters. After being separated from her family, Sally managed to reunite with two of her sisters under unlikely circumstances, and thanks to the courage of a non-Jewish farmer who hid them, the three sisters were able to survive.

David Tauber, Clara’s father, was forced to become part of the Red Army and was the only survivor of his family. After the war, David found out of the death of his wife. Eventually, he met Sally and the two were married.

In 1946 Clara was born in a displaced persons camp outside of Nuremberg, Germany where she lived until her family was able to move to New York City in 1949.

Having taught at Hebrew schools for many years, Clara now speaks to student groups about her parents’ experiences. She currently resides in Sarasota, FL.

 

Diane H. Mandell

Diane  is the daughter of two Holocaust Survivors. Her father, Ed, was in the Warsaw Ghetto and had multiple close calls trying to survive. His mother tried to arrange a rescue operation for him but he was abandoned by a Jewish man who was supposed to help him. Eventually, Ed ended up in an orphanage in Hungary and was reunited with his mother after the war.

Diane’s mother, Halina, survived the Holocaust passing as a Catholic child in a Polish village. Halina’s mother also survived and got reunited with her daughter – she revealed their Jewish identity to Halina several years after the war. Halina’s father was a physician and died while being deported to a death camp.

In spite of the traumas they lived through, Diane’s parents share hope and optimism as evidenced in the PBS Frontline documentary “Never Forget To Lie.”  Both Halina and Ed speak to school groups at The Florida Holocaust Museum. Their experiences have inspired Diane to speak for those who are not here anymore and cannot share the lessons of the Holocaust. Diane has volunteered to speak to groups at the Museum and is honored to do so.

As a graduate of Case Western Reserve, she is a Senior Therapist and Administrator of a large group counseling practice, using empathy and compassion in her work.

She is a mom who teaches her child Tikkun Olam – repairing the world one piece at a time.

 

Sandy Mermelstein

Sandy has been a part of the Museum since its inception in 1992 as volunteer. She joined the staff in 1999. Sandy has completed the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous Summer Institute for Teachers at Columbia University, and Eppley Institute for Parks and Public Lands Program from Indiana University. She has facilitated presentations for teachers at the Museum’s Summer Institutes and assisted with the initial planning of contents of the Museum’s teaching trunks. Sandy has planned and taught continuing education for docents and has worked with more than 100,000 school children. She has conducted numerous school, adult, and VIP tours of the Museum’s core exhibition and traveling exhibitions. She is the daughter of Holocaust survivors and speaks regularly, to both adults and children, about her parents and other survivors’ experiences. Sandy leads the project “Voices of Generations” that assists the Museum’s Second Generation with building presentations about their parents’ experiences. She is the 2018 recipient of The Florida Holocaust Museum’s Legacy Award.

 

Ruth Wade

Ruth Wade is the daughter of Holocaust Survivor Sidney Finkel, who still speaks in Arizona schools, telling his story accompanied by his memoir and video. He is thrilled about her decision to join him on his journey to educate young people about the lessons of the Holocaust, sharing his story of suffering, perseverance and hope.

As a founding member of the Generations After community in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Ruth wrote and led Holocaust Remembrance (Yom HaShoah) services for over 16 years, weaving together the group’s family stories.  Prior to retiring from a large corporation in 2016, she spent many years in executive training roles, developing leaders, franchises and their team members.

Ruth moved to the St. Petersburg area in 2017 and has one son, named after her father’s Survivor brother, Isaac.

 


Liberator

Arthur Sheridan

In 1942, at age 17, Arthur Sheridan enlisted in the Army. Assigned to the 60th Armored Infantry Battalion of the 20th Armored Division, he arrived in Europe following the D-Day invasion, and fought his way across France and into Germany. Outside Munich, the 60th Armored Infantry Battalion of the 20th Armored Division found and liberated the concentration camp at Dachau. As an infantryman, Sheridan was among the first American soldiers to enter the camp.

 

 


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