For 18 years, the Holocaust Survivor Memoirs Program has been bringing the stories of Holocaust survivors to life – stories that might otherwise go untold.
What started as a small operation at the Azrieli Foundation has grown into a national, award-winning program dedicated to collecting, sharing and publishing Canadian Holocaust survivors’ stories – and educating new generations about the Holocaust.
Through its educational resources and academic and community events, the Memoirs Program reaches hundreds of thousands of people, ensuring that survivors’ stories are taught accurately and that their memories live on.
To mark the milestone year of 18 or chai (meaning “life” in Hebrew), the Memoirs Program held a celebration in June 2023 in Toronto to honour the survivors who wrote their memoirs and to bring together everyone who made the program a success.
It was a meaningful affirmation for Judy Abrams, author of Tenuous Threads, which the Foundation published in 2011: “Thank you for making us, the authors, feel the significance of our contribution to a unique project affirming survival, life.”
To date, the Memoirs Program has published 125 stories. In January 2023, to bring some of these memoirs to a wider audience, the program partnered with Penguin Random House Canada to release the first-ever author-narrated Holocaust survivor memoir audiobooks. The audiobooks give people the remarkable experience of listening to survivors’ stories in their own voices.
With new education programs, memoirs and audiobooks on the way, the Holocaust Survivor Memoirs Program is gaining new ground.
“At 18 years old, a person is still very young – they have a whole life ahead,” says Jody Spiegel, director of the program. “Our program is only 18. We still have a lot to do.”