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16 September 2020

Approaching the Holocaust through Memoir

A Cry in Unison - A New Memoir by Judy Weissenberg Cohen

First person accounts can be a powerful and important way of learning about how the Holocaust affected individuals, families, and communities. Whether it was being expelled from school for being Jewish, being forcibly moved from the familial home and into a ghetto, or being deported to one of the infamous concentration camps, first person accounts allow us to learn about the tremendous effect that the Holocaust exacted upon human beings. Although we are more than 75 years from the end of the Second World War and the Holocaust, there are still many narratives to discover.

A Cry in Unison (Azrieli Foundation, 2020)
by Judy Weissenberg Cohen.

Besides describing her experiences in the Holocaust, Judy’s poignant memoir discusses her early years in Canada. This includes her pioneering work advocating for worker’s rights and her deep commitment to social justice. Her memoir is an insightful educational resource for high school and university students as well as the general public.

A long time Holocaust survivor educator, Judy has spoken about her personal experiences and specifically how the Holocaust affected women, for many years. The catalyst for her to begin speaking publically was an encounter with a Holocaust denier in Toronto in the 1980s. This unplanned, fateful event compelled her to speak and later to develop her own website which has become an acclaimed source for scholarship on issues of gender and the Holocaust.

In 1987, Judy recorded her oral history as part of the Neuberger’s own collection. In the excerpt included here, Judy describes an unexpected but welcome source of help she and her family received while living in the ghetto in her hometown. This short but powerful excerpt demonstrates how the Holocaust affected individuals and the choices that some people made; in this case unknown individuals who sought only to give assistance without recognition or personal gain. It is a reminder that the ability to affect positive changes resides in each of us, and that seemingly small actions can have an enormous impact when learning about the Holocaust.

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Carson Phillips, Ph.D.

Written byCarson Phillips, Ph.D.

Carson Phillips holds a Ph.D. in Humanities from York University, Toronto, Canada and is Managing Director of the Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre. He served as a Canadian delegate to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance and an editorial board member of PRISM- An Interdisciplinary Journal for Holocaust Educators. In addition, he is an adjunct faculty member in Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Gratz College, USA.

He is the recipient of numerous scholarly awards including the BMW Canada Award for Excellence from the Canadian Centre for German and European Studies. His research interests focus on post-Holocaust conceptualisations of gender, Väterliteratur and cultural representations of the Holocaust in screen and visual culture. His most recent publication is the book chapter “Post-Holocaust Conceptualizations of Masculinity in Austria”, in The Holocaust and Masculinities (2020,Bjorn Krondorfer and Ovidiu Creangă, editors)