“I speak as a witness for the 1.5 million children who were murdered. I don’t want them to be forgotten. ‘Remember us.’ Those were their last words. ‘Remember us.’ And that’s what I’m trying to do.”
– Tova Friedman, The New York Times Bestselling Author of “The Daughter of Auschwitz”
In the digital age, we have access to more information than ever before – but somehow, knowledge of the horrors of the Holocaust is slowly eroding.
Shockingly, a 2020 survey measuring Holocaust awareness in the U.S. found that roughly two-thirds of those surveyed didn’t know how many Jewish people had died. Even among younger people, education on the topic is lacking – 48% of the 18-to-40-year-olds surveyed could not name one concentration camp or ghetto.
How can we ensure these memories are passed on before they are lost to history?
Tova Friedman, clinical therapist and social worker with the Jewish Family Center of Somerset, Hunterdon and Warren Counties in New Jersey, is one of the youngest living survivors of the Holocaust. An evocative and poignant speaker, she shares her vivid tale of resilience to speak out against intolerance in a time of rising anti-Semitism.
Just five years old when she was taken to Auschwitz, and one of only five of the hundreds of Jewish children from her hometown to survive the war, she credits her miraculous survival to a lot of luck and her mother’s commitment to a relentless honesty about what was happening to them.
A captivating and powerful storyteller, one of Friedman’s central messages is that prejudice coupled with violence destroy both the victim and the victor. She immortalizes what she saw and learned as a child in a concentration camp in her instant New York Times bestseller, “The Daughter of Auschwitz: My Story of Resilience, Survival and Hope” (Hanover, September 2022), co-written by Malcolm Brabant, an award-winning PBS Newshour special correspondent and former BBC war reporter. With a foreword by Sir Ben Kingsley, it has received stellar reviews, with author Jeremy Bowen calling it a “deeply moving story.”
Unique in a sea of other Holocaust memoirs, Friedman retains her child’s eye to relate the small moments of kindness, anywhere they existed, among those who tried in their own little ways to resist or to remind each other of shared humanity. Now a trained therapist with her master’s in social work, gerontology and counseling, Friedman uses the teachings of famed psychologist and fellow Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl to communicate how one can find spiritual meaning by helping others. It also helps us recognize our own inner strength.
“Humanity often faces extraordinarily difficult challenges that seem to be never-ending. But I believe we are all born with natural resilience,” she encourages. “The ability to overcome is within each and every one of us.”
Securing the Future by Honoring the Past
Remembering is important to Friedman, and she feels her legacy must speak for those who cannot. In her talks, she pays close attention to every audience, creating an experience unlike any other. Urging listeners to explore their own heritages, she invites them to reignite ties with family and community – a message that has continued to resonate on social media. Now in her eighties, Friedman has embraced digital platforms to pass on the cultural memory to over 500,000 TikTok followers who have liked her videos more than nine million times. Gifted with an astonishing power of recall, she relates the harsh lessons she learned before most of us had even started school to call attention to the early warning signs of genocide that are happening today.
Her unforgettable story is one of unspeakable suffering and loss, but also of inspiration, uniting audiences across generations with gripping examples of extraordinary courage, endurance and hope. An unparalleled speaker who bravely answers any question from curious audiences of all ages, her emotional first-hand account of growing up as both a survivor and a child of a survivor ensures that the voices of those lost to the Holocaust will echo on for decades to come.
The world may solemnly declare “Never forget” in reference to the Holocaust, but true remembrance goes beyond recollection. In Friedman’s view, for the memory of those lost to truly endure, we must honor them by recognizing and confronting systemic issues. When asked why she published her memoir so late in life, Friedman’s eyes fill with fire as she explains how global current events – from the January 6, 2020 riots in the United States to stunningly anti-Semitic comments by public entertainment figures – combine to serve as potential warning signs of genocide.
“The Holocaust didn’t happen in one day,” reminds Friedman. “It had time to get worse and worse, and – you know the saying? First, they burn books, and then they burn people. It’s a warning. Hitler rose, and people didn’t believe what could happen. We need to believe it.”
Though Friedman has faced unimaginable difficulties, she remains steadfast in her commitment to sharing the lessons of the Holocaust.
“Hatred is one of the fastest-growing phenomena today. Hate of every kind, especially toward minorities,” she concludes. “Wherever you are in the world, I implore you, do not repeat the history to which I was subjected.”
As we work together to build a more empathetic future, voices that inspire change and foster deeper understanding are more important than ever. Stern Strategy Group connects you with renowned thought leaders whose insights, strategies and management frameworks help organizations fuel growth and disruptive innovation to better compete in a constantly changing world. Let us arrange for these esteemed experts to advise your organization via virtual and in-person consulting sessions, workshops and keynotes.