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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Ralph Berger Shares His Impressions Of Speaking At Miami-Dade College

Ralph Berger, the editor of With Courage Shall We Fight and the son of Jewish partisans, recently spoke at Miami Dade College as part of Miami’s Holocaust Education Week. He shares his experiences our readers.

In February 2012, as part of Miami’s Holocaust Education Week, my brother Al and I were fortunate enough to have been asked to speak about the book we edited, With Courage Shall We Fight: The Memoirs and Poetry of Holocaust Resistance Fighters Frances “Fruma” Gulkowich Berger and Murray “Motke” Berger, which tells the story of our parents’ lives before, during and after WWII. The experience at Miami Dade College was one that neither of us will soon forget.

The College did a great job of publicizing the event. As we walked around campus, we saw posters announcing the event containing not only our pictures and the book cover, but one of the Bielski Brigade as well. The auditorium seated 350 people. We were quite surprised as students and professors kept coming into the room. More and more piled in. Extra chairs had to be brought in and some students wound up sitting on the floor. Unfortunately, some had to be turned away at the door.

As people were walking in, a slide show obtained from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum was playing. One professor then spoke about Jewish resistance during WWII and the Bielski Brigade in particular. He introduced the JPEF film “Intro to the Partisans.” Another professor introduced me and Al and had clearly read the book. He talked about our parents and the roles that they played in the Brigade.

This was one of the most attentive audiences we had ever seen. After our presentations, a professor came up to us and said that the “audience was so focused you could hear the proverbial pin drop.” The highlight for me came when one of the students read a poem of my Mom’s, “The Little Orphan.” He had a thick Spanish accent. Me and Al were “fahrklempt.” I could see my parents smiling.

Many of the students were from Cuba and Puerto Rico. They asked very heartfelt questions after the lectures. Though not Jewish, it was clear that they were engrossed in the story because so many of them could identify with parts of it - the universal story of resistance to oppression, fleeing from persecution and for a better life. I feel so lucky and so privileged to have been given the opportunity to help educate people – not only about the Partisans, but also about this very important chapter in Jewish history.

— Ralph Berger

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