SD Holocaust survivors share stories at UCSD

Series to include five presentations from local survivors at public events from April 15 to May 20

Five local Holocaust survivors will recount their personal experiences during the Holocaust in Nazi Germany in “Discovering History: Holocaust Survivors in San Diego,” a series of presentations being held by UC San Diego’s Holocaust Living History Workshop, a joint effort of the UCSD Judaic Studies Program and the UCSD Libraries.

Local Holocaust survivors who will participate in the presentations include: Lou Dunst and Hilda Pierce, who will kick-off the series on April 15; Gussie Zaks on April 22; Benjamin Midler on May 6; and Dr. Edith Eger on May 20.

At the presentations, members of the campus community and the public will have the opportunity to meet the survivors and hear their stories and also learn about other survivors’ testimony from the USC Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive, which includes the personal stories of more than 50,000 survivors of the Holocaust.

All presentations will take place at 5 p.m. in the UCSD Geisel Library Electronic Classroom (Room 274) on the main floor of the Geisel Library building.

At the April 15 presentation, Lou Dunst will discuss his experiences as a survivor of the ghetto at Mateszalka and the Auschwitz, Mauthausen, and Ebensee concentration camps. Dunst arrived in San Diego in 1951, where he has been a successful merchant and real estate investor.

He has been active in the San Diego community, sharing his story with various schools and community groups. He has also taken San Diego-area teens to Poland and Israel on “March of Living” trips.

Hilda Pierce will also share her personal memories at the April 15 event. Pierce, who was born in Vienna, Austria, fled to England with the assistance of the Jewish Children’s Refugee Committee.

Pierce, who came to the U.S. in 1940, is a popular professional painter-her portrait of founding University Librarian Melvin J. Voigt hangs in the lobby of the Geisel Library building- and the author of a recently published memoir, Hilda: A True Story of Terror, Tears and Triumph.

On April 22, Gussie Zaks, a survivor of the Bergen-Belsen, Flossenburg, Blechhammer, Saybusch, and Neusalz concentration camps, will relay her personal story.

Gussie travels throughout the San Diego community speaking to students, synagogues, and other community groups. She is also the president of the New Life Club for Holocaust survivors in San Diego.

The May 6 event will feature Ben Midler, who survived the Bialystok ghetto and the Blizyn, Majdanek, Ohrdruf, Auschwitz, Sachsenhausen, Potsdam-Babelsburg, and Oraniensberg concentration camps. He also fought during the formation of the State of Israel after WWII and has a published memoir, The Story of a Child Survivor from Bialystok, Poland.

The May 20 presentation will focus on the remembrances of Edith Eger, a survivor of the Auschwitz, Gunskirchen, and Mauthausen concentration camps. Eger, who came to the U.S. with her husband and daughter in 1949, earned her PhD in psychology and now has her own psychotherapy practice and an appointment at UC San Diego.

Eger is a contributor to Chicken Soup for the Golden Soul and travels worldwide to share her story with others, in addition to counseling patients with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The UC San Diego Libraries are one of only three university libraries on the West Coast to have access to the USC Shoah Foundation Institute Visual History Archive, founded by filmmaker Steven Spielberg to document the stories of Holocaust survivors for his movie, Shindler’s List.

In 1994, Spielberg established the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, a non-profit organization, to collect and preserve more than 50,000 firsthand accounts of survivors and other witnesses of the Holocaust. In January 2006, the Foundation became the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education.

The archive of 52,000 digital oral histories recorded by Holocaust survivors and other witnesses is the foundation for the Holocaust Living History Workshop, a program that has brought together UC San Diego students, San Diego holocaust survivors, and their children.

The workshop, which was established to expand the usefulness and the impact of the archive, has proven to be a powerful tool for discovering family history and preserving memories for survivors, their families, and members of the community.

The Holocaust Living History Workshop, launched last year, aims to teach the history of the Holocaust through two methods of face-to- face contact, both with Holocaust survivors and their children and through the Visual History Archive.

Student volunteers have received special training on how to search through the testimonies in the massive archive, and then teach survivors and their families-from multiple generations-how to use the database.

These families can then use the archive to conduct their own searches in order to learn about other people, and in some cases relatives, who had similar Holocaust experiences.

The Visual History Archive includes the testimonies of Holocaust survivors from 40,000 specific geographic locations in languages ranging from Bulgarian and Greek to Japanese and Spanish, and can be accessed by members of the public from any computer on the UC San Diego campus.

Members of the campus community and the public are welcome to attend one of the weekly Visual History Archive training open house sessions held on Wednesdays from 5-7 p.m .

For more information about the training and UC San Diego’s Holocaust Living History Workshop, please contact Teresa Kuruc at

or 858.534.7661.