Hey everyone! A few weeks ago, I spoke for the Butterfly Project. They were holding a fundraiser to get people to donate money for the new butterfly garden that will be opening in Shalom Park shortly. Below is the speech I gave. I encourage you all to learn more about the Butterfly Project and if possible, to visit the butterfly garden once it is complete. Have a great week!
Good Evening, and welcome to Shalom Park and tonight’s information session for the butterfly garden. My name is Elyse Bodenheimer and three years ago I created a website to collect and preserve stories from the Holocaust.
My family belongs to Temple Israel and I attended the Charlotte Jewish Day School. Our Charlotte Jewish community has a respected tradition of remembering the Holocaust and honoring the memory of those who died. Shalom Park has hosted events to remember Kristalnacht; has hosted Holocaust education conferences; and has sponsored notable Holocaust speakers from around the world to come and speak to our community.
For the past few years, Charlotte’s Jewish community has also been participating in the Butterfly Project, where we paint butterflies as a means to provide a voice for the 1.5 million Jewish children who died in the Holocaust. I myself painted a butterfly, in memory of Martin Borus.
These opportunities to engage in actively preserving our Jewish heritage have inspired in ME a passion to keep the memories alive.
I am going to speak about efforts that I have taken as a memory-keeper. This is a very important role, being a memory-keeper – to me, it means making certain that the stories of the holocaust are never forgotten, and continue to be told. Three years ago, I started MyJewishLegacy.com, and since then I have had over 4,000 visitors to my site, and have collected over 50 stories.
My grandfather, Bert Bodenheimer, was born in the southern German town of Lorrach, which is on the border with Switzerland. In 1938, his father was arrested with other Jewish men after Kristalnacht and sent to the Dachau concentration camp. Nevertheless, my grandfather’s family was extremely fortunate, because they had important political connections, and money, outside of Germany, and they were eventually able to buy their way out from the Nazis and come to America.
I am named after my grandmother, Ellen Schleicher Bodenheimer. Her family was from Offenburg, Germany. Her father, Dr. Hugo Schleicher, was a prominent lawyer who was also arrested after the “Night of Broken Glass” and placed in a concentration camp. When he was released, the family survived a difficult time living as Jews in Nazi Germany. Their quota number to come to America was very high, and after a desperate time they were eventually saved and allowed to stay in Scotland as guests of members of the Oxford Group, an organization that later became the Christian Moral Rearmament Movement.
Those of us who are children and grandchildren of holocaust survivors are sometimes referred to as 2G (for second generation) and 3G (for third generation) memory keepers. Since starting my website, I have come to realize that there is still a great amount of history and stories of the holocaust “out there”, just waiting to be shared with everybody.
Activities like the Butterfly Project have helped me understand the need to share these stories with our community, and to educate others about this point in history, to truly make sure that this never happens again. We need to learn to speak out against ethnic killing and genocide whether it happens in Europe for six million Jews 60 years ago, or recently in Yugoslavia, Darfur, and Rwanda. I have taken it upon myself to go to different Charlotte schools on a regular basis, and to speak with other children about the stories I have preserved. I encourage my peers to interview their own family, friends, and neighbors – anyone with a holocaust story. Over the course of the past few years, I have collected stories not only from survivors, but from non-Jewish liberators, too. There is something of interest for almost everybody; from heroic stories of soldiers at war, to harrowing stories about children hidden from the enemy, to frightening stories about life as a Jew under the Nazi powers. It has been a fascinating project to collect these stories!
We all understand how important it is to preserve Holocaust memories. Remembering is an effort; I have been taught that we need to make that effort and show our respect to those who perished, by lending our voice to theirs. The Butterfly Garden will provide a venue for continuing to speak and teach to our community. My generation’s obligation is to inspire in our peers a desire to never forget. I hope that your generation will continue to help us by providing us the resources to accomplish this goal.