Itka Zygmuntowicz spent all of her teenage years in a Nazi concentration camp. Long afterward, in 1994, she sat down with an interviewer with the Shoah Foundation and talked about herself for six hours.
Much of that interview wasn’t about being a prisoner, but rather about being a girl in Poland–like the time a beggar came to the door asking for a handout.
“My grandmother gave me some coins and she said, ‘Please give the money to the man waiting at the door,'” Zygmuntowicz remembers. “And I looked in my hand and I said, ‘Grandma, so much money.’ And my grandmother smiled and she said, ‘My child, you only have what you give away.’ I did not understand what she meant.”
Zygmuntowicz says the years she spent in the camps did not radically alter her worldview: they only crystallized the lessons of her grandmother.
Between 1994 and 2000, the Shoah Foundation recorded thousands of testimonies like these. The Shoah Foundation was established in 1994 by filmmaker Steven Spielberg to collect and archive testimonies about genocides.
About a dozen local survivors of the Nazi concentration camps will gather at the National Museum of American Jewish History on Sunday. At one time, they all gave testimony to the Shoah Foundation; this weekend, they will see how their video testimonies are being used for education and research.
Zygmuntowicz is looking forward to meeting the others, but says many survivors don’t necessarily have much in common aside from one horrible period of their lives.