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On Holocaust Remembrance Day, SLC woman shares mother's survival story

Posted at 10:24 PM, Apr 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-09 00:24:16-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City joined communities around the world Thursday in recognizing Holocaust Remembrance Day, and one Salt Lake City woman has made it her mission to pass the stories on from her mother, who survived the genocide.

Known as Yom HaShoah in the Jewish community, April 8 is a day to honor and remember the stories of the six million Jews killed as well as those who survived.

Various events were carried out virtually by organizations and academic institutions in Utah, including the United Jewish Federation of Utah, Hillel for Utah, University of Utah, and Weber State University.

The University of Utah turned Holocaust Remembrance Day into a whole week of events around the theme "Breaking the Silence," ending with a keynote speaker on Friday. Click here to sign up for the event.

Just before a Thursday evening event kicked off on Zoom, hosted by Weber State University, Diane Hartz Warsoff talked to her mother in Pennsylvania, Ruth Kapp Hartz. They both were set to speak.

Diane has told Ruth's story many times.

"My mother was a Hidden Child in southern France," she explained. "My grandparents were German, fled Germany."

Warsoff recounted how her mother, only six years old during World War II, stayed with her parents in secret basement rooms as they evaded the Nazis.

At one point, around 1943 to 1944, Ruth lived at an orphanage in a convent away from her parents.

"Only the mother superior knew which were the Jewish children, so the nuns had no idea-- because, we found out later, that the Gestapo had an office in the same building," Warsoff said.

Ruth would cry at night for her mother, and Warsoff described how the nuns would tell the little girl that her mother was no longer alive, and they were here for her now. Thankfully, both of Ruth's parents survived the Holocaust, and the family eventually reunited.

As a second-generation Holocaust survivor, Diane has now inherited their stories.

"It's crucial for me. It's my story too," she said. "I've met the rescuers, I know my mother's surviving family, I know stories about the people that were killed, and it feels very, very personal to me. I mean, it's my story."

A story, that Warsoff sees being perpetuated by our society, today.

"It's something that still happens," she said. "And one of my mother's strongest messages is: Listen to the words, because the words become actions."

The words have become actions across the country, leading to violence like mass shootings.

In 2018, 11 people were murdered in a shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

It's not just the Jewish community Warsoff is referring to. It's every community that has recently been targeted, because of where they are from, or what they look like, or what they believe in.

Take the recent shootings in Atlanta, for example, which have sparked allies and cries to stop hate crimes against the Asian American community.

"It feels like we haven't learned the lessons," she said. "There are people who still spout hatred against Jews, against Asian Americans, against Blacks, against whatever-- and it doesn't go away, and that's so sad."

So on Holocaust Remembrance Day, as Diane and Ruth share stories from the past, they are also sharing a message for the future.

"Don't be a bystander," Warsoff said.

She urged people to speak up.

"There were too many people that claimed they didn't know it was happening, or they didn't realize, or, you know, 'We weren't Nazis,' but they didn't do anything," Warsoff said, adding, "And I think that's the lesson to be learned."