March 25, 2009
Holocaust “Witness to History” Liselotte Ivry will be the distinguished speaker at the 25th annual Ellsworth Lecture at Johnson State College’s Dibden Center for the Arts, Thursday, March 26, at 7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.
Ivry is a leading voice on the horrors of the Holocaust, speaking for the dwindling numbers of survivors to remind the world of the dangers of indifference to genocide.
Born in 1925 in a small town in Czechoslovakia; she and her brother, Hans, were the only Jewish children in the village. In October 1938, Germany occupied the Sudetenland, and in 1942, the family was sent to Theresienstadt. In the ghetto, Liselotte and her mother worked as nurses, while Hans made toys.
On September 15, 1943, they were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where Ivry’s mother and brother were murdered. Ivry was sent to other camps, but miraculously survived. In February, 1945, she was sent to Bergen-Belsen, where she was liberated by the British army on April 15, 1945.
She was only 19 years old and had lost her whole family. Eventually she was able to make her way to Montreal were she had an uncle.
Now in her 80s, Ivry speaks articulately and movingly. “Why do I do what I do, to be involved in telling about the Holocaust?” she asks. “Unfortunately, every year there are fewer and fewer of us left and we have to try to do our best to inform and educate the young people.
“I am a speaker for the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre and visit many schools. Sometimes I am asked, ‘Do you feel guilty that you survived?’ and my answer is ‘NO.’ I feel we are all put on this earth for a certain purpose and I was chosen to speak for the six million whose voices were stilled.
In 1999, and again in 2001, Ivry joined the March of the Living, “as a survivor, but I prefer being called a ‘Witness to History.’” Twice, she made the symbolic three-kilometer march from Auschwitz to Birkenau with young people from different countries.
“It was with a lot of soul-searching and trepidations that I decided to go on the March,” said Ivry. “I knew it would not be easy revisiting Auschwitz-Birkenau where I spent seven months; where my dear mother died on January 4, 1944; and where my brother, Jan (Hans), two years my junior, went to the gas chamber on March 8, 1944.
“I was asked to address the students in one of the barracks, the only one left standing, but when I arrived on the grounds of Birkenau I literally collapsed; it seemed that I heard all the voices from the past and I just fell down. I was helped up and got back my determination to fulfill my duty. I addressed the children, as I call them, and gave them a glimpse of life in Birkenau,” Ivry added.
Ivry’s current hometown of Montreal has the world’s third-largest Holocaust survivor population, and is home to the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre and Museum, founded in 1979.
Its mission is to educate people of all ages and backgrounds about the attempted destruction of the Jewish people by Nazi Germany between 1933 and 1945, while also sensitizing the public to questions of human rights and moral responsibility.
Its Speakers Bureau, of which Ivry is a member, is comprised of survivors with their extraordinary eyewitness accounts who educate the public about their personal experiences of courage and survival during the Holocaust. Each year, the Speakers Bureau educates and inspires thousands of students from public and private schools across the continent.
For more information about the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre and Museum, visit: http://www.mhmc.ca/en/index.html
The ELLSWORTH TRUST is a private foundation that enriches higher education at JSC and the study of political science and history through scholarships for undergraduates, annual lectures which bring visiting scholars to campus for lectures and seminars, grants to fund multicultural events, and travel grants for students, alumni, and faculty.
For more information about the Ellsworth Lecture, contact: Sally Laughlin, Director of Development and Alumni Relations, Johnson State College, 337 College Hill, Johnson, VT 05656, tel. 802 635-1241, email: firstname.lastname@example.org