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Remembering Ethel Katz: Holocaust Survivor and KHC Volunteer

With great sadness, the Kupferberg Holocaust Center at Queensborough Community College CUNY mourns the loss of Holocaust Survivor, friend, and longtime volunteer, Ethel Katz.

Ethel and Felice Katz

Ethel Katz, with her daughter Felice Katz, in 2017.

Born Etunia Bauer in Poland in 1922, Ethel’s life changed forever when Hitler’s forces entered her town in July of 1941. Her family lived in Buczacz, now part of the Ukraine, on a large pastoral estate. After her twin brother was killed, Ethel and her family spent years running from one temporary safe haven to the next until they were eventually discovered in 1944. The entire family was gunned down as they tried to flee, but Ethel somehow managed to escape death. Alone, she hid for months behind a false wall in a house occupied by German soldiers.

It was decades later that Ethel decided to share her story publicly. In her memoir, Our Tomorrows Never Came, published in 2000, she wrote:

Now, so many years later, although the hurt has not diminished, a protective, gossamer membrane of time has slowly grown over the pain and, carefully, the wound may be touched. Now the suffering of our people must be told loudly, for the world must know of the evil   that human beings have inflicted on human beings, and my generation of living witnesses will soon be gone. Perhaps by exposing this evil we can prevent its repetition and humankind can again lay claim to being civilized.

 

Since the Kupferberg Holocaust Center’s early days, Ethel was there to share her story with students in hopes of preventing hate and to preserve the memory of her family. Aside from speaking to classes and community groups over the years, she also met with dozens of Queensborough Community College students as part of the biannual Holocaust Internship. In this semester-long program, students learn the history of the Holocaust and are then assigned a local Survivor to interview. Ethel participated every year since the program’s inception in 2009, and she deeply impacted the lives of each student she met with.

During the Fall 2015 semester, Ethel was assigned to a student intern named Jacquelyn Addeo. Jackie, who already held a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Briarcliffe, was studying Massage Therapy at Queensborough at the time. A passionate student of history, she immersed herself in the internship and was eager to speak with an actual Holocaust Survivor. Jackie and Ethel immediately connected during their first meeting. A strong bond developed, and the two remained in touch with frequent visits, lunches, and phone calls. Aside from friendship, Jackie made it her mission to share Ethel’s story:

Jackie Addeo sharing Ethel's story.

Jackie Addeo sharing Ethel’s story.

During our talk, Ethel said every time she speaks she sees her father in front of her. Throughout the war, Ethel told me of the many times her family would say their good-byes when they thought they were getting ready to be murdered. Her father would always question, “Who will tell our story, of what happened here?” I began to realize that I will make a vow, although Ethel has not realized fully her tomorrow has come, I vow to be her tomorrow and to continue on her story and my experience. I will see her every time I tell her story and my knowledge will hopefully make any amount of change. “I will be your tomorrow.”

 

 

Ethel impacted every person who heard her story. Over the last three years, Ethel’s eldest daughter Felice began to join her when she met with students, helping to share the story when Ethel’s voice grew weak. Ethel passed away on Saturday, March 31st, 2018. She will be deeply missed.

“We learned not to cry, but we also learned not to forget. We cannot forget. We have six million reasons to remember.” – Etunia Bauer Katz, 1922-2018

 

 

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