Revitalizing Access: The Journey of Bringing the VHEC’s Legacy Collections Online  

An abundance of historical materials recounting the lives of Holocaust survivors before, during and after the Second World War can be found in the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre’s legacy collections. When the VHEC was first established, the local survivor community donated photographs, diaries, testimonies, ephemera, clippings, posters, identity and travel documents, correspondence and other documentary heritage items that bear witness to pre-war life, persecution, internment and migration to Canada and elsewhere.  

The Peterswald Kinderheim testimonies, recorded in Yiddish by Professor Shia Moser, are one such example. These small, lined notebooks record some of the first testimonies of child survivors of the Holocaust and were donated to the VHEC by Moser in the early ‘90s. The testimonies remained largely unexplored until the VHEC received grant funding from the Library and Archives Canada Documentary Heritage Communities Program (DCHP) to migrate legacy FileMaker Pro catalogue records into our new web-based CollectiveAccess database. Now these testimonies are just a click away.

[Testimony notebook of Alla Oppenheim], [1946]. Professor Shia Moser fonds, Student testimony, 1993.037.025.

Prior to this project, only a small percentage of the VHEC’s archival holdings were publicly available online. Information about these holdings was stored in an outdated FileMaker Pro database from the 1990s, which could only be accessed onsite by VHEC staff. This limited accessibility made it difficult for external researchers, educators and the general public to explore the VHEC’s extensive collection of Holocaust-related materials. Even internal staff unfamiliar with the software had trouble exploring the collection. We were determined to change that and enhance accessibility to Western Canada’s largest collection of Holocaust-related materials.  

To achieve this goal, we added new information about items and their donors to enhance the legacy catalogue records. We also wrote collection- and fonds-level finding aids to provide additional context and support research into aggregations of items from the same donor or family. Item-level data was standardized and migrated into the VHEC’s web-based content management system to improve accessibility. Translation, transcription and digitization of items supported this work.  

As a result, anyone with a computer and internet connection can explore photos, documents, and other historical artifacts that were previously only accessible to VHEC office staff. While working on this project, an intriguing finding was made regarding an item that was originally cataloged as correspondence. It turned out to be a marriage certificate: of Abraham Yakov (Jack Gardner), the son of Mosheh, and Chayah, the daughter of Yisrael. The couple was married on 30 Shevat 5705, which corresponds to Tuesday, February 13, 1945, shortly after liberation.  

Image is of a Ketubah [Marriage Certificate] from the Jack Gardner fonds.

[Ketubah]. February 13, 1945. Jack Gardner fonds, Foehrenwald (DP camp) records, 93.07.0064.

This vital piece of history may have stayed unnoticed and the item mistakenly cataloged as “correspondence” if not for the availability of funding for translation, description and digitization work. The marriage certificate offers a rare peek into the lives of Holocaust survivors and their experiences of rebuilding their lives after the war. It also serves as a testament to the resilience and hope of those who survived one of the darkest periods in human history.  

The thrill of new discoveries was not only felt by the VHEC archivists. Exhibit curators and educators used many of the newly described items to support exhibitions and educational programming. In Focus: The Holocaust through the VHEC Collection relied heavily on the new description and digitization work to find materials for display, including the Moser testimonies highlighted above and these photographs from the Bergen-Belsen DP Camp.  

Two photographs currently on display at the VHEC. On the left, Klara Forrai pictured at a demonstration at Bergen-Belsen, and on the right, is a group photograph with David Feldman in the back row, second from the left, in front of the camp’s gate.

Educational material created in support of the newly installed exhibition Age of Influence: Youth & Nazi Propaganda will rely on some primary sources described through the DHCP project, including a selection of white nationalist and antisemitic propaganda from Canada and the United States. 

Image depicts a Holocaust denial sticker created by Ernst Zündel. The sticker reads: “Germans! Stop apologizing for the things you did not do!” The sticker includes Zündel’s mailing address and an illustration of the German Reichsadler (“Imperial Eagle”).

[Holocaust denial sticker]. October 17, 1994. White nationalist and antisemitic propaganda collection, 1996.029.009.

We have also seen increased engagement from the public. The Eckville student visit collection was donated to the VHEC by Estelle Jacobson in 1996 and described and digitized as part of the DHCP project. The collection documents a May 1983 visit to Vancouver by six former students of the infamous antisemitic teacher and mayor James “Jim” Keegstra from Eckville, Alberta to attend the annual Symposium on the Holocaust at UBC. Author and filmmaker Hart Snider happened to briefly meet some of Keegstra’s former students as a kid when they visited his Jewish summer camp, inspiring his graphic novel and film The Basketball Game. His perspective on the brief meeting was filled with fear and wonder about the potentially antisemitic visitors. Four decades later, the newly described collection helped Hart find “solace in the fact that the openness and kindness of the Canadian Jewish community helped [the students] to learn and feel welcome.” Read more about Snider and his work in the most recent issue of Zachor. Overall, the multi-year project has been a significant undertaking, but its successful completion will undoubtedly benefit scholars, educators, and the public for years to come. With the improved access and more user-friendly system for navigating and exploring these records, we can gain a deeper understanding of the experiences of Holocaust survivors and Jewish refugees in Canada during the Second World War and preserve their stories for future generations.

[Thank-you letter from Lorna Tink]. [after May 26, 1983]. Eckville student visit collection, 1996.057.016.

Overall, the multi-year project has been a significant undertaking, but its successful completion will undoubtedly benefit scholars, educators, and the public for years to come. With the improved access and more user-friendly system for navigating and exploring these records, we can gain a deeper understanding of the experiences of Holocaust survivors and Jewish refugees in Canada during the Second World War and preserve their stories for future generations.  

At the upcoming AABC/ARMA Joint Conference on April 28, VHEC collections staff Shyla Seller, Caitlin Donaldson, Chase Nelson and Amanda Alster will reflect on this project’s contributions, challenges, and the work and resources required to make a project such as this one successful.

Access the full list of collections digitized and described by this project here:

RA053: Ronald Brown Second World War memorabilia collection 

RA056: Michel Mielnicki fonds    

RA058: John Rodgers photograph collection    

RA059: Theresienstadt memorabilia collection   

RA060: Professor Shia Moser fonds 

RA061: Reisman family fonds  

RA062: Duifje and Albert van Haren fonds 

RA063: Collection about Elisabeth Berger, Lucie and Eugen Grabowski 

RA064: Indersdorf Children’s DP Centre photograph collection 

RA065: Frank A. Abbott photograph collection  

RA066: John F. McCreary Bergen-Belsen photograph collection  

RA068: Sigmund Muenz ‘Enemy Aliens’ ephemera collection   

RA069: Paul Heller collection  

RA070: Gunter Bardeleben fonds  

RA072: Sarah Rozenberg-Warm fonds  

RA073: Liberation photograph collection  

RA074: Eckville student visit collection  

RA075: Frances Hoyd fonds   

RA076: Eisler, Galperin family collection  

RA077: Paulina Kirman collection     

RA078: Leon and Esther Kaufman fonds  

RA079: Dr. Dina Golovanevskaya fonds  

RA080: Collection of Nazi German legal documents   

RA081: Collection of Nuremberg Trial documents   

Dr. R. Walter Dunn notebook collection  

RA084: White nationalist and antisemitic propaganda collection  

RA085: Survivor and witness testimony collection  

RA087: Bronia Sonnenschein collection

Additions and updates were made to these collections below:

RA002: Jean Rose fonds   

RA007: von Baiersdorf, Reif family fonds   

RA019: Hilary and Harrison Brown collection 

RA021: David and Regina Feldman fonds 

RA023: Teitelbaum, Buckman family fonds 

RA025: Jack Gardner fonds 

Finding aids and related authority records created as a part of this project were uploaded into community partner portals, such as MemoryBC to expand their reach and discoverability. 

Reflections on Profound Losses

A Message from VHEC Executive Director Nina Krieger

Survivors of the Holocaust are central to the VHEC’s mission and to the impact of many of our educational programs. A small and exceptionally dedicated group of survivor speakers share their eyewitness accounts of loss and survival with audiences at our annual and district-wide symposia, at the Centre, in classrooms and at commemorative and community programs.

This week, the VHEC community is mourning the passing of three of its longstanding Holocaust survivor speakers.

On April 21, Belgian Holocaust survivor Alex Buckman z’l passed away in Warsaw, Poland while participating in the 2023 March of the Living. As a tireless speaker and a longstanding president of the Child Survivor Group,  Alex’s impact on the VHEC, the audiences we serve, and the local survivor community are immeasurable. Our deepest sympathies go out to Alex’s wife, Colette, son Patrick, and to the entire Buckman family.

Alex Buckman, 2022

Alex was four years old when his father handed him over for safekeeping to Mademoiselle Andrée Geulen, a 20-year-old teacher in a Brussels school, one of the Righteous Among the Nations, who also saved hundreds of other Jewish children during the Holocaust. Both of Alex’s parents were murdered in Auschwitz-Birkenau. Alex wrote about the significance of his relationship to Mademoiselle Andrée in the Spring 2022 issue of Zachor.

Alex was adopted by his aunt, Rebecca Teitlebaum, a survivor of Ravensbrück concentration camp. In his video testimony, Alex describes how Rebecca and other women in her barracks recorded, in secret and at great personal risk, recipes from memory in a handmade book. Alex donated Rebecca’s recipe book to the VHEC so that it could be preserved and support learning over time, and it is currently on display in the exhibition, In Focus: The Holocaust through the VHEC Collection.

When he spoke to students, Alex would share a copy of his aunt’s recipe for gateau à l’orange (orange cake) with audiences. Over the years, Alex and the VHEC received countless letters about the significance of the act of baking Rebecca’s cake. CBC featured this story in a documentary in 2017.

Alex’s passing comes days after the loss of two other VHEC Holocaust survivor speakers, David Ehrlich z’l on April 10 and Louise Stein Sorensen z’l on April 19. Our heartfelt condolences to David’s sons Perry, Brent and their families, and to Louise’s sons Andrew, Edward and their families.

Child survivor Louise Sorensen shows her mother’s identification card marked with a ‘J’.

A child survivor from Holland, Louise was a longstanding outreach speaker, a founding member of the Vancouver Child Survivor Group, a participant in the multidisciplinary Gesher Project, and served on the VHCS Board for a decade.

Louise was also a generous donor to the VHEC’s collection; her materials are described and digitally available here. A compelling speaker, Louise would wear a heavy coat and turn her back to the students as they entered the classroom in which she was about to speak. When the teacher introduced her, she would turn around and reveal the yellow Star of David patch sewn onto her coat. The students’ attention was assured from the outset.

Born in Gherla (now part of Romania) in 1926, and one of the war orphans that came to Canada in 1947, David Ehrlich was a captivating speaker, who travelled across BC to share the story of his survival of Auschwitz, the death march, and Mauthausen concentration camp. David was motivated to begin speaking when Jim Keegstra made headlines with his teachings in Alberta that denied the Holocaust. Likening Holocaust denial to a second attempt at genocide, David was determined to counter antisemitism and distortion of history with his testimony.

David Ehrlich, 2007

David spoke with a humanity and charm that will be remembered by all who had the privilege of hearing him. I am one of these former students, who participated in a breakout session with David at the Annual Symposium on the Holocaust many years ago.

Alex, Louise and David are Life Fellows of the Vancouver Holocaust Centre Society, an honour bestowed by the Board of Directors for outstanding contributions to our mandate.

At this difficult time, the VHEC is here to support the survivor community in navigating these profound losses. We will always be grateful to Alex, Louise and David for all that they contributed to advancing learning and understanding about the Holocaust and its legacies, and about the possibility—the necessity, even—of resilience, compassion and hope in its aftermath.

May their memories be for a blessing and a source of courage and inspiration to us all.




Conserving a beloved artefact

photograph of a child's shoe

Child’s shoe, donated to the VHEC by Yacov Handeli. 1997.009.001

This child’s shoe, recovered from the Kanada barracks at Auschwitz-Birkenau, has been used by the VHEC in several past exhibitions to represent the loss of life and experience of children during the Holocaust. The shoe is a favourite of docents and visitors alike. In 2017, we noticed that bits of leather were flaking off the artefact in storage and so we reached out to the Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI) for help. The CCI provides conservation treatments for selected objects that either have significant historical and cultural value or are challenging and require explorations into conservation treatment and science. As part of their analytical and conservation work, we learned that the item is a child-sized left ankle boot made from brown leather, consistent with a derby/blucher styling, and likely had a raised heel block. The leather, and partially visible textile lining, is soiled. It has stiffened into its current flattened form, causing warping and strain on the remaining intact stitching. The sole is detached from the upper, its 6.5 remaining metal eyelets are corroded.

Conservator Lauren Osmond analysed the artefact and prepared a treatment plan, which included cleaning to remove dust and debris, and consolidating the flaking and crumbling areas of the leather using an appropriate adhesive. Osmond stabilized some of the loose fabric elements around the toe and heel. The outsole stitching holes still have the original stitching thread in them, and those threads were left in place. She created a storage box for the item using conservation-grade materials. Reflecting on her experience working on this project, Osmond wrote, “As a conservator, I have had the opportunity to care for a range of objects, some more challenging than others. Working on this child’s shoe was difficult on an emotional level. The memory that this shoe holds is profound and reminded me of how artefacts have the power to prevent us from forgetting.”

The artefact is now on display as part of In Focus: The Holocaust through the VHEC Collection.

Article reproduced from the Spring 2023 issue of Zachor magazine. Read more:

Becoming the Enlightened Witness

Post contributed by VHEC Program Coordinator Pascale Higham-Leisen.

On the evening of February 13, 2023, Holocaust survivor and acclaimed author Lillian Boraks-Nemetz shared her experience of surviving the Holocaust with members of the Ben Gurion Society at the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. The Ben Gurion Society is the Jewish Federation’s national leadership and donor recognition program for young professionals who support the Jewish community through the Federation’s Annual Campaign. Over thirty members of the society attended Lillian’s presentation. Many of them had never heard a Holocaust survivor speak before.

Lillian began by describing a poignant memory of her and her father seeing a wall being built as they walked down a street together in Warsaw. Even at this young age, she knew that the construction of this wall would change her life forever. Lillian stated, “The wall would soon create two worlds, being built by the hands of Jews who were told to build their own prison.” She described her family’s move to the Warsaw ghetto and the appalling living conditions; close to half a million Jews confined in 1.3 square miles of Warsaw made the living spaces suffocatingly crowded. The only privacy residents had was from “curtains hanging to separate the beds of approximately 24 people who shared a room with one bathroom.” Due to the cramped environment and lack of food and sanitation, an outbreak of typhus resulted in strict quarantine measures.

Within the walls of quarantine, Lillian felt imprisoned. This feeling returned during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many survivors were triggered by restricted movements and isolation. Lillian shared, “Trauma leaves behind a deep wound that, when unhealed, will eventually begin to start creating an emotional pain which won’t let you cope with an ordinary life. It’s a pain that few understand.”

Lillian Boraks-Nemetz addressing the Ben Gurion Society, February 13, 2023. Photographed by Rhonda Dent.

The audience heard Lillian describe the deportations of the Warsaw ghetto, her remarkable escape as arranged by her father, the separation of her family and the devastating loss of her childhood, her sister and her identity. “My own childhood ended the day Nazi Germany invaded Poland and the Second World War began. Our happy lives ended, and I became an adult at the age of 6.”

After the Holocaust, Lillian and her parents immigrated to Canada. She tried writing about her Holocaust experience in her first year of university. An English professor asked her class to write about a time in their lives which profoundly impacted them. Lillian wrote about the Warsaw ghetto, and the professor’s feedback to her was, “This is not what I asked for.” She felt the hidden child inside her retreat. Lillian continued to push her trauma inwards, while starting a family and dedicating time to running a household. But at the age of 40, everything she had submerged began to resurface.

Her trauma healed, in part, through her sharing her story with students and adult groups like the Ben Gurion Society, as well as from her writing practice. Lillian is an accomplished writer in the genres of poetry and fiction. Her work explores trauma and her relationships with her children, who “Bore the brunt of my pain and whose forgiveness and understanding mean more to me than life.”

As the program coordinator at the VHEC, I see the impact our survivor outreach speaker presentations have on students. The attitude Lillian encountered in her first year of university is crushing, but also serves as a crucial reminder: Education is the pillar of combating antisemitism. The courage and tenacity it took, and continues to take, for Lillian to share her testimony of surviving the Holocaust, even after being discouraged, is remarkable.

Lillian recently introduced me to the concept of an ‘enlightened witness’, and its importance for survivors. Not just an active listener, the enlightened witness empathizes and sees the survivor’s trauma as complex and nuanced. VHEC board member, Sam Heller, who attended Lillian’s presentation, was an enlightened witness:

“I was in awe of her strength, resilience, and vulnerability. I have heard survivor testimonies before and thought that maybe I would be prepared for the torrent of emotion that these talks elicit. I was wrong. Each time it is new, raw and powerful. We are lucky to be able to hear firsthand from Lillian, and we are lucky to have heroes like her among us. It made me think of my grandparents, and all the crazy things that they went through in the war, and renewed my sense of awe how they persevered to provide amazing lives for their children and grandchildren.”

Pascale Higham-Leisen and Sam Heller in conversation with Lillian Boraks-Nemetz, February 13, 2023. Photographed by Rhonda Dent.

Lillian reminds us that with knowledge comes responsibility. The responsibility of an enlightened witness is to remember the Holocaust and honour its victims, to be the stewards of survivors’ stories and to ensure the phrase “never again” echoes through the generations to come.

*Lillian’s first book of poetry, Garden of Steel, was published in 1994. To date, she has published 11 books including The Old Brown Suitcase, The Sunflower Diary and Mouth of Truth. These books are available for borrowing from the VHEC library.

Vigour in the archives: Honouring International Women’s Day at the VHEC

93.07.0090, [Portrait of Dina Golovanevskaya], 5 Oct. 1942

Post written by Chase Nelson, Collections Assistant. Chase is a recent graduate of the UBC iSchool. 

What does it mean to be an activist? Is an activist someone who takes to the streets, linking arms with allies to collectively call for what is right? Do they ingrain themselves within a community in order to understand the problems that plague them and search for equitable solutions? Do they educate friends, family, co-workers and acquaintances about important causes? The Canadian Oxford Dictionary defines activism as “the policy or action of using vigorous campaigning to bring about social or political change”—but what does “vigorous campaigning” look like? 

International Women’s Day, celebrated on March 8th, is a product of the vigorous campaigning of working-class women in the early 20th century. The Socialist Party of America called for the first National Women’s Day in 1909 in honour of widespread demonstrations and organizing around working women’s rights and welfare. Clara Zetkin vigorously campaigned for an International Women’s Day at the 1910 International Conference of Working Women, leading to its first celebration in Switzerland, Germany, Denmark and Austria in 1911. On February 23, 1917 (March 8 in the New Style dating system), a Women’s Day demonstration in Russia against food shortages and rights abuses under the autocratic Romanov dynasty grew to such great heights it led to the Tsar’s abdication from the throne a week later. March 8 was formalized as International Women’s Day by the USSR in 1922 and celebrated as a holiday in communist countries around the world for decades; the United Nations formally recognized the day in 1975 (Haynes, “The Radical Reason Why March 8 is International Women’s Day,” TIME, 2019).

Dr. Dina Golovanevskaya, whose records are newly available on the VHEC’s collections website, was likely one of the millions of women honoured during annual Women’s Day celebrations in the Soviet Union. Born in 1919 in Odessa, Ukraine during the height of the Russian Civil War, Dr. Golovan (as she often referred to herself) was a staunch patriot, decorated military veteran and distinguished medical professional.

As many archivists do, I came to meet Dr. Golovan not face-to-face but through the records and objects she left behind. She was one of the first individuals to donate personal records to the VHEC back when it was the Vancouver Holocaust Centre Society in the early 1990s. She donated copies of photographs, a couple letters from friends and a few Russian-language publications from visits to Holocaust memorial sites. Last year, as part of a Library and Archives Canada Documentary Heritage Communities Program (DHCP) grant to digitize our legacy holdings and make them accessible in our collections catalogue, I reached out to Dr. Golovan’s daughter Erika Galinskaya to see if we could swap out some of the copies for originals.

We received much, much more: military records, speeches, articles, identification documents, certificates, correspondence, medical paraphernalia, the original photos and then some. From these records and conversations with Erika, we can tell a story of a woman who served in the front lines of some of the fiercest battles against fascism, dedicated her life to the medical profession and committed to community service and advocacy until the end.

Dr. Golovan served in the Red Army as a captain of medical service alongside other Jewish medical professionals from the Battle of Stalingrad to the fall of Berlin in 1945. After the war she advanced in the medical field; she worked as the Head of Laboratories at a hospital in Odessa for fifteen years, all while raising her daughter Erika as a single mother (her husband Jakob passed away in 1949 from complications from wounds received during the war).

2022.018.021, [Photograph of laboratory students in class], 1952

While Dr. Golovan’s love for her country was great, antisemitic bureaucracy prevented Erika from getting a merited job as a musician. The mother and daughter immigrated and settled in Vancouver in 1976, where Dr. Golovan committed to community work and quickly became a pillar in Jewish and Russian volunteer organizations. She was an active member and elected officer of the Shalom Branch #178 of the Royal Canadian Legion and the Workers for Zion. She frequently sent letters, published articles and gave speeches on topics she felt were important, from the defunding of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra to the beauty of her native Odessa. While many of her medical certifications were not recognized by Canadian institutions, she never failed to address herself as “Doctor,” even inscribing the title in pen on articles where she was featured. She was a staunch advocate against antisemitism and Holocaust denial; she published multiple articles in the Jewish Western Bulletin and frequently corresponded with editors and politicians about egregious cases. Just weeks before she passed away in 1997, Dr. Golovan sent a letter to the Bulletin and the North Shore News condemning the latter for publishing articles by Doug Collins, a noted Holocaust denier; a version of the letter was published in the Bulletin.

Selection of 2022.018.055, Community Forum Sunday examines seniors survey, 21 Mar. 1991

I’m unsure if Dr. Dina Golovanevskaya identified as an activist. Based on her records, however, it is quite apparent that she was a campaigner of vigorous extent. Learning from Dr. Golovan’s life and the history of International Women’s Day, I am moved to honour this day by going beyond the simple celebration of a particular gender identity. Rather, we must recognize the continued oppression of the world’s most marginalized classes and celebrate those who identify as women around the world who tirelessly advocate for a just and better world for all.

2022.018.033, [Photograph at a Remembrance Day event], 11 Nov. 1989


Two Selves: Mariette Doduck’s book launch

Post contributed by Program Coordinator Pascale Higham-Leisen.

The parking lot was packed with parents dropping off their kids for swimming lessons, children were squealing with excitement at Nava café, parents and grandparents were waking up with steaming cups of coffee in hand. This is the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver on a Sunday morning. The halls buzzed with anticipation for the launch of Marie Doduck’s memoir, A Childhood Unspoken, in the Norman and Annette Rothstein Theatre.

VHEC Executive Director Nina Krieger opened the event by introducing the Centre and its efforts to combat antisemitism and racism through Holocaust education. Nina highlighted International Holocaust Remembrance Day and the importance of survivor memoirs. She finished with a personal and moving introduction of Mariette. Arielle Berger, the Managing Editor of the Azrieli Foundation’s Holocaust Memoirs Program, remarked on the incredible work the Azrieli Foundation does. Arielle emphasized the Azrieli Foundation’s education programs and gave the audience a synopsis of Mariette’s memoir. Following a heartfelt introduction from Dr. Lauren Faulkner Rossi, the historical advisor for Marie’s memoir, Marie made her way onto the stage. As she crossed the stage, everyone in the audience rose in a standing ovation.

Photograph of two women seated in chairs on a stage, microphones in front of them, a bouquet of flowers sits between them.

Mariette Doduck (left) and Jody Speigel (right) of the Azreli Foundation discussing Mariette’s memoir. January 22, 2023. Photographed by Josias Tschanz.

Marie has close ties with each person in the room. You could hear a pin drop as she not only revealed the arduous task of reliving her story of survival, but also her reunion with Mariette, the child. As stated in her memoir and at the book launch, Mariette was forced to grow up quickly while in hiding from the Nazis. A childhood unspoken, until now. In her memoir, she explains the distinction between Mariette and Marie and recalls a pivotal memory marking a shift into her new identity as Marie. She was travelling via ship across the channel to England when she decided to throw overboard the remnants of an old red sweater her maman gave her. “I was too young, and not well enough physically, or old enough mentally, to reflect on the symbolism of the act, what it meant on different levels: a letting go of my childhood, which had been long destroyed in any case; an attempted goodbye to the Mariette of Europe, to the hunted little girl who survived the Nazis; a recognition that I was in transition, passing from one phase of life to another.”

Mariette held the room’s attention with her strength and vulnerability, as she took us through her experiences of being a child survivor, but also of writing a memoir. As a founding member of the Child Survivor Group here in Vancouver, Mariette described the significance of this group and the collective experience of being a survivor and how that affects their identity. “We, the first survivors that came here [Vancouver], we found out that we were always two people. We didn’t know we were two people. Because I accepted the name Marie as my Canadian name and Mariette I left. But when we [the child survivors] are together, we are our Jewish name and our European name… Mariette will never grow old. I was trying for the last 10 to 15 years to see if I can get Mariette to grow to my age. That will never happen. The child Mariette will always be the child inside me, and that’s what survivors live like.” Mariette mentioned, “it took me 40 years for me to expose myself to the community.” The resiliency and strength Mariette demonstrated in reliving her trauma, writing her memoir and sharing it with the world, is astonishing.

Mariette Doduck signing copies of her memoir, A Childhood Unspoken. January 22, 2023. Photographed by Josias Tschanz.

When asked what she wants readers and students to take away when they complete the book, she responded: “First, knowledge of the past, accepting we [survivors] are not frauds. That we survived, maybe we were left to survive to teach you not to hate.”

Since the launch, people have been purchasing copies of A Childhood Spoken. Books will be gifted to students visiting the VHEC courtesy of the Azrieli Foundation.

A unilateral success and incredible accomplishment for Mariette/Marie, we are reminded through her testimony and memoir: “Survival is a coat you never take off.”

Mariette Doduck will answer questions about her memoir in an upcoming Q&A on zoom, hosted by the VHEC and moderated by Dr. Abby Wener Herlin, Wednesday, March 8 at 7 p.m. Register to attend:  


Unfolding Memories and Reflections: Jennifer Roosma

Guest post by donor to the VHEC collection, Jennifer Roosma,

Around the time of my 17th birthday, five years after the death of my grandmother, my mother handed me a file folder filled with typewritten pages in English. The pages were covered with edits and corrections, some in pen, some in pencil, in handwriting I recognized as belonging to my mother and grandmother, and possibly that of a family friend. The pages were the first three chapters of my late maternal grandmother’s memoir. I learned later that these chapters were translated by Granny herself from German into English.

I wonder what my mother felt when she gave me those pages. At 17, she had fled for her life from Vienna, the city of her birth. Her father had been murdered, and she along with her mother and older sister were refugees from Nazi terror living in London, England.

I enjoyed the three chapters immensely, recognizing many of the stories my mother loved to tell me and my brothers (and which I now repeat to my own children!). New details and stories fascinated me. I read and reread and wanted more.

The memoir covered my grandmother’s elementary school experiences and escapades, and stories of her brothers, their artistic abilities, and the jobs they obtained with the help of the rich branch of the Gutmann family. There’s a funny story about a dancing teacher hired to teach the teenage boys to dance… I couldn’t help remembering the waltz lessons my mum gave my brothers and I in her study.

Photograph with three adults, two children, a table set with food in foreground.

Family dinner celebrating Granny’s birthday, ca. 1968. My Dad looking rather jolly! Elder brother taking the photo.

My childhood memories of my grandmother, as well as these three chapters of her memoir, and the stories and expressions my brothers and I repeat to this day, reinforce our family tradition of telling stories with humour, and usually with laughter directed at ourselves. This is a gift for which I’m so grateful and which I hope will be passed on to our children.

At age 44, after both my parents had passed away, I inherited my grandmother’s memoir in its original German, entitled “Meine Erinnerungen.” On the title page I recognized my name, written in her European slanting script, translated to: Dedicated to my granddaughter, Jennifer Elisabeth Dolman.

My grandmother was 44 when she fled Vienna with her teenage daughters and was widowed a few days later; her husband murdered in a Vienna Gestapo prison. It suddenly struck me that my grandmother, whom I had known only in her 70s, had been exactly my age at the time when these traumas had occurred. This realization was very moving for me and opened up a huge chasm of pain. My mother had shared so little of her trauma, but it was there, and over the next few years, it was my turn to experience it deeply.

Today at age 64, approaching 65, I am the age my grandmother was when she wrote her memoir. I’m thrilled to announce that her story has been published in its original German by Danzig & Unfried, based in Vienna, thanks to the work of Dr. Ernst Grabovszki, a professor at the University of Vienna in the Department of Literature. The book is for sale on a number of websites, including Amazon. In honour of International Women’s Day, we will celebrate the launch of the book at UBC on March 6, 2023.

The original German typescript is in the collection of the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre along with some other items and an English translation created by an excellent team of translators, Anuschka Elkei and Dr. Uma Kumar. The translation is available online at you can hover and read it from the website, you can download it and read it on your computer, or print it.

The memoirs of Anna Helen Aszkanazy will be launched at CENES UBC on March 6, 2023, at 4 p.m. Event is free and open to the public. More details here:




Video tutorials introduce users to collections research at the VHEC

For the past two semesters, the VHEC worked with students enrolled in LIBR 535: Instructional Role of the Librarian, taught by instructor Fiona Hunt at UBC.  The goal of this course is to provide students with a foundation in learning theory, instructional design and information literacy instruction. Students work with real clients, like the VHEC, to create an instructional resource. In our case, students created video tutorials to explain features of our online collections catalogue.

For term one, Andrea, Matthew, Jill, Martin and Claire approached the subject of the lightbox, a collaborative research tool. Watch their video:

For term two, Andy, Emma, Jack and Katelyn tacked the subject of the finding aid, and how archival material is organized and presented online. Watch their video:

According to their professor, real life experiences are incredibly valuable and instructive for students preparing to enter the field of library and archives. We’re pleased to support new professionals interested interested in the field, and thank them for their great work on these videos!

Studying the Netherlands at the VHEC

Six years ago, when I was a master’s student of history at the University of Groningen, I joined the VHEC as a research intern for the Canada Responds to the Holocaust exhibit. It was arguably one of the best times of my life. I loved Vancouver and the work I got to do at the […]

IHRA Plenary Session of the Swedish IHRA Presidency

VHEC Executive Director attended the Stockholm Plenary of the IHRA Presidency meetings last week.