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"What We Carry" Shares Holocaust Survivor's Story

By Amanda Morad | January 31, 2013

Presenter Mickey Held exhibits artifacts from Holocaust survivor's life.

From the subways of Berlin to the schools of Hampton Roads, Holocaust survivor Hanns Loewenbach's journey was full of narrow escapes, serendipitous encounters and inspiring moments. Celebrating his life, Regent University welcomed the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater to tell his story on Monday, Jan. 28.

The United Jewish Federation of Tidewater sponsored the film project "What We Carry" as a way to preserve forever the firsthand accounts of Holocaust survivors. Four local survivors have had their stories recorded into a multimedia presentation given by the federation in schools and organizations all over the southeastern Virginia area.

"These filmmakers have cracked the code of teaching the Holocaust," said presenter Mickey Held. "You can't tell their stories in 10 minutes, but we're trying to bring the story of what they endured to life for today's generation."

"Our hope is that you will take the moral implications of these presentations into your everyday life, for in doing so, you honor the memory of the victims and survivors of this great tragedy," Held continued. "No museum or text book can compare to hearing these survivors' stories. Firsthand accounts are the heart and soul of understanding the Holocaust."

Loewenbach's father was one of the earliest Jews taken to German concentration camps before the war even began. When German officials tried to trick Loewenbach into coming to pick up his father who had supposedly been released, he recognized their true intent and jumped from a large cargo truck into the streets of Berlin. From there, Loewenbach spent much of his young adult life on the lam, never sleeping the same place twice, and riding subways all over the city during the day just to blend in.

German officials had seized his passport, so Loewenbach had no way of getting out of Germany safely. An avid swimmer and athlete, he even swam to Denmark's shore in an escape attempt and was promptly sent back into the icy water by the Denmark patrol.

Providence stepped in when an old classmate, now a bonafide Nazi, recognized Loewenbach, and out of compassion forged him a passport to get to Italy. Though he was eventually able to settle in Shanghai and get both his parents out of Germany, few other family members or Jewish friends were so lucky.

"To be a survivor means to raise a family without any relatives," he reflected in the recorded presentation. "But it is important not to hate. Evil doesn't need your help, just your indifference. ... We have to speak about it so people will not forget."

Hanns Loewenbach passed away in January, 2012. The presentation of his story also included replicas of the artifacts Loewenbach escaped Germany with, including books, photos, papers, clothing and memorabilia. The theme of the presentation, "What We Carry," is derived from the idea that Holocaust survivors were all nomadic at some point. They took a journey, either out of Germany, or through the concentration camps, or other means of escape. The question Held asked the audience as she closed was, "What would you carry if you were forced to take such a journey?"

"This is the second time Regent University has formally recognized International Holocaust Remembrance Day with an event," said Sara Baron, dean of the Regent Library. "Comments from attendees demonstrated that the program was meaningful and moving. Amidst the tears and laughter, I think everyone present recommitted to the principle 'Never Again.'"

The program concluded with a reading of the Kaddish, a Jewish Mourner's Prayer, read in Aramaic by Dr. Joseph Kickasola, professor in the Robertson School of Government.

Learn more about what's happening at the Library.


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