The Witness to History Project
The National Council of Jewish Women Greater Philadelphia Section has been involved with the Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center (HAMEC) for ten years. The first visit to the Holocaust Museum by a group of NCJW women was arranged by one of its members. They met with the museum director who told them about the museumʼs “Witness to History Project” which has a Holocaust survivor or a liberator present eyewitness testimony of their experiences to area schools and organizations. This original group was so impressed with the need to disseminate the story of the Holocaust to the general public that they became enthusiastic museum volunteers who underwent training as facilitators and devoted many hours to the “Witness to History Project.” The volunteers received detailed information about each survivor/liberator, were given an in-depth history of the Holocaust and were briefed on what questions might be asked by their audience. The facilitator is then prepared to make a knowledgeable opening statement and introduction of the survivor.
Volunteers are responsible for driving the survivor/liberator to and from the speaking engagement. They are also responsible for making the arrangements at the school/ facility and conducting the Q&A at the end of the speakerʼs presentation.
The museumʼs educational programs serve the five county area of Greater Philadelphia. In the previous academic year, the program reached students at 277 schools (public, private and parochial), and adults at various organizations and events, for a total of 40,000 attendees.
A more recent addition to the museumʼs Holocaust education ability is the use of Skype which brings the survivorsʼ stories directly to the classroom. Several NCJW volunteers act as facilitators for the introductions and Q&Aʼs following the survivorʼs testimony. In the past three years, 15,000 students in classrooms around the United States, as well as eleven foreign countries, have been able to hear the personal accounts of Holocaust survivors.
More than twenty NCJW members, as well as some of their spouses, take part in this project. NCJW members continue to become facilitator volunteers at the Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center and have found it to be one of the most rewarding activities that they have participated in. The stories told by the survivors and liberators help bring the truth of what happened in the Holocaust to generations born so many years afterwards.