Portraits of Honor: Our Michigan Holocaust Survivors
In 1999, I started to develop a project called Portraits of Honor: Our Michigan Holocaust Survivors. The idea was to present photographs and brief biographies of Michigan’s Holocaust Survivors for educational use. We began to display these photographs and histories on the walls of the Jewish Community Center and in schools around Detroit. Since 1999, the project has grown. Portraits of Honor is now a permanent interactive exhibit at the Holocaust Memorial Center (HMC) in Farmington Hills, Michigan. It is also available online at portraitsofhonor.org. It now includes photographs, brief histories, historical references, and maps for over 550 Holocaust Survivors who have lived in Michigan.
This year, we just started a new Portraits of Honor photographic Gallery. Black and white photographs are now on permanent display on the classroom walls of the HMC. The photographs show the beauty and resilience as well as pain and suffering of the Survivors. We hope that, after encountering these images, students and visitors will want to learn more about the individual Survivors and the history of the Holocaust.
Several of our Michigan survivors who attend annual conferences of the World Federation of Jewish Child Survivors of the Holocaust and Descendants are included in Portraits of Honor. Jack Gun and his brother, Anszel (Sam) Gun survived as they hid in the fields and in the forest of a Polish farmer who was a friend of their parents. As a seven-month-old baby up until the end of the Holocaust, Miriam Monczyk Ferber was hidden and protected by her family’s righteous Polish Catholic neighbors. When he was nine years old, Fred Ferber and his family were taken to the Cracow-Plaszow Ghetto. Fred subsequently survived the ghetto and the concentration camps of Cracow-Plaszow, Gusen II, Gunskirchen, and Mauthausen. As a boy, Rene Lichtman was hidden and protected by Righteous Gentiles living in the French countryside outside of Paris. In his Portraits of Honor interview, Rene stated, “Be tolerant and get to know other people so you won’t fall for stereotyping. Also, don’t be a bystander. The people who saved both my mother and I were normal people who took a position. I think they knew the danger they were taking to save our lives.”
We hope that Portraits of Honor will continue to be an important educational learning tool to further educate students and visitors about the Holocaust. Portraits of Honor is a project of the Program for Holocaust Survivors and Families, a service of Jewish Senior Life of metropolitan Detroit and C.H.A.I.M.-Children of Holocaust-Survivors Association In Michigan.
Dr. Charles Silow
Leadership Committee, World Federation of Jewish Child Survivors of the Holocaust and Descendants (WFJCSH&D)