Survivors’ children keep memories alive
Stuart Ferster did not consider his upbringing out of the ordinary. But with hindsight, there was “a lot missing” — and this was down to the 54-year-old’s father, Chaim, having survived concentration camps including Buchenwald and Auschwitz.
Originally from Sosnovich, Poland, Chaim Ferster is now 87, lives in Manchester and still works every day in the family manufacturing business he set up. He recalled that post-war, many survivors did not talk about their experiences. “It was too difficult and people also found it hard to believe such crimes could happen. As I got older I realised I had to face the facts and people needed to know. I felt it was my duty.
“I went back to Poland because my children wanted to see it. I thought it was important because when you see the place in front of you, it goes in deeper than just telling them.”
They searched for the apartment where he had lived — “nothing was left. Seeing Auschwitz was more difficult. I showed my family around the different blocks and it brought back a lot of memories. I found things easier after that and it was good to share things with my family. I’ve recorded my story now so that it will never be forgotten.”
Stuart Ferster is now involved in the Second Generation Network, set up 15 years ago to bring together children of Holocaust survivors. He said that when growing up, his father’s time in the camps was “a forbidden topic.
“He only began to speak about it properly about 25 years ago. A rabbi in Manchester started saying that people suffered during the Holocaust because they were sinners and it made survivors’ blood boil.”
Stuart Ferster regularly tells others about his father’s experiences — “I think the story is so important.” Now his own son Arron, 24, a TV producer in London, has joined the network. He recalled asking as a child what the tattoo was on his grandfather’s arm. The question went unanswered. But he had opened up in recent years, not least because of the realisation that future generations had to pass on survivors’ stories. “I feel a responsibility to tell his story. There are less survivors now so it is up to us to make sure the message gets through.”