Speakers’ Bureau

The Speakers Bureau is a group of Holocaust survivors and descendants of survivors who present their Holocaust history to groups – from schools and places of worship to nursing homes and community organizations. To request a speaker, please click here (herocenter@ctvoicesofhope.org).

Meet Our Holocaust Survivors Presenters

Dr. Leon Chameides was born on June 24, 1935 in Katowice, Poland, where his father, Kalman Chameides, served as chief rabbi. With the German invasion of Poland, Leon’s family fled eastward, joining the migration of 250,000 Jews. With the Soviet occupation of eastern Poland, the family first settled in Szczerzec, with Kalman’s parents, near Soviet-occupied Lwów, Poland (present-day L’viv, Ukraine).

In late 1942, Leon (age 7) and his brother, Herbert (age 9), were transferred from Szczerzec to two separate monasteries run by the Uniate Church in Western Ukraine where they were given new identities, taught to speak Ukrainian and instructed in prayers and rituals so they could pass as Christian children. Leon ended up spending two years in hiding, living in an orphanage in Briukhovychi, Ukraine, before moving to Univ, where he was sheltered with two other Jewish boys and protected by Brother Danil Temchyna (later recognized as a Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem).

Leon’s father died of typhus on December 25, 1942; his mother perished in 1943, following the liquidation of the Lwow ghetto in April 1943. Leon and his brother were liberated by Soviet forces in the summer of 1944; Leon tried to return to Lwów only to have the Russian soldiers send him back to Univ. He finally returned to Lwów, where he reunited with his brother; there they discovered that their parents and grandparents perished during the war.

Leon and Herbert immigrated to England in 1946 to live with his maternal grandparents (the Konigshofers). He immigrated to the United States in 1949, entering medical school in the first class at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. In 1967, he moved to Hartford, and served as the founding Chair of Pediatric Cardiology at Hartford Hospital and Connecticut Children’s Medical Center for 30 years, as Chair of Pediatrics at Hartford Hospital for 10 years, and as Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine.

He and his wife, Jean, have three children and seven grandchildren. He is known as the father of “pediatric resuscitation,” a technique he developed in the field, and has also become a dedicated Holocaust educator, authoring the book Strangers in Many Lands: The Story of a Jewish Family in Turbulent Times and most recently, On the Edge of the Abyss: A Polish Rabbi Speaks to His Community on the Eve of the Shoah, a translation of his father’s sermons and essays as Rabbi of Katowice.

Rabbi Philip Lazowski was born in the small town of Bielica (present-day Belarus) in 1930, the son of Chaya Gitel and Josef Lazowski, and older brother of Rachmil, Abraham, Aaron, and Rachel. His father was a fisherman, and his mother owned a fabric store. At the beginning of WWII, their part of Poland was occupied by the Soviet Union, and they lived under communist Russian rule until 1941.

With the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, German forces marched into Bielica on June 28, 1941 and began to slaughter the Jewish population in a mass killing operation. On November 10, 1941, the remaining Jews of Bielica, including Philip and his family, were banished to the Zhetel ghetto. On April 29, 1942, the Germans carried out a round-up in the Zhetel ghetto, driving Jews from their homes to the central marketplace. Philip’s family managed to hide in a cave under their home, but Philip was caught by a German soldier before he could hide and forced to the marketplace where a selection was underway. He was saved from the selection thanks to the intervention of a kind-hearted woman, named Miriam Rabinowitz, who pretended Philip was her son to protect him from the round-up.

After the war, Philip, his father Josef, and younger brother Rachmil (Robert) made their way to a displaced persons camp in Austria. In 1947, they traveled by train from Bad Gastein through Germany to Bremen where they boarded a ship for their trip to the United States. He continued his education in New York City graduating from Yeshiva University. At a wedding in New York, he met a young woman who told him about a family in Hartford who had once saved a “boy from Bielica” in the Zhetel ghetto. Knowing that he was that boy, Philip called the Rabinowitz family, eventually traveling to Hartford where he was reunited with Miriam who saved his life in the first selection in the Zhetel ghetto.

He began dating her oldest daughter, Ruth, and they were married in 1955. He was ordained in 1962 and earned his doctorate in Jewish Studies eight years later. Brought to Hartford as Education Director for Beth Sholom Synagogue, Rabbi Lazowski became its rabbi several years later. When Beth Sholom later merged with Beth Hillel in 1969, he remained as rabbi for the following 40 years. Rabbi Lazowski is the author of several books including, Faith and Destiny, an autobiographical account of his Holocaust experience.

Endre (Andy) Sarkany was born in Budapest, Hungary on October 31, 1936.  The building he lived in was located inside the Budapest ghetto which is where he remained during the Holocaust.  The building housed a nursery/kindergarten on the ground floor.  The school was affiliated with the Jewish Agency of Hungary and was led by Mr. Eugene Polnay.  The building also housed on the top floor a dance, acrobat and ballet studio.  These facts were significant in Endre’s survival and that of at least 150 orphaned children. Endre’s father was taken to Mauthausen concentration camp in the spring of 1944, fortunately he survived.

After WWII, Hungary became a communist nation.  Although Endre graduated high school in 1955, he was not accepted to university because he was deemed an undesirable element of society.  This label was given to anyone who owned a business before the communists took over the country.

Endre was fortunate to escape Hungary after the October 1956 uprising and was able to immigrate to the United States.  He received his bachelor’s degree from Tusculum College in Tennessee and his Master of Science degree in Applied Mathematics and Computer Science from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.  Endre worked for both the McDonald Douglas Corporation and the IBM Corporation.

Over the past 10 years, Endre has been speaking to students about his personal experiences during the Holocaust, living under the brutality of the Soviet regime in Hungary and finding a home in the United States.

Mr. Sarkany is married, has a daughter and son, and five grandchildren.

Ruth Weiner was born in 1931 in Vienna, Austria, the only child in a large, close family of grandparents, aunts and uncles, who surrounded her with love and were often her companions for fun.  She led a life rich in the kinds of things available in a beautiful, cultured city.  All this changed dramatically when the Nazis entered, dominated all aspects of life and made being Jewish not only unbearable but very dangerous.

Expelled from public school, she attended a distant Jewish school and experienced the various horrors such as Kristallnacht that marked the beginning of the Holocaust.  As the situation deteriorated, it became clear that to survive she would have to escape Austria, and she was fortunate to be able to find refuge in England with the Kindertransport just before World War II broke out. Even more fortunate, after experiencing the beginning of the war with air raids in England, she was reunited with her parents and came as a refugee to America.

Today she is a grateful 90-plus-year-old wife, mother, grandmother and great grandmother who lives in Bloomfield.  She enjoyed a rewarding professional life of many years as a teacher, principal and consultant.  She has always made it her task to teach students of all ages the lessons of the Holocaust, trying to explain the inexplicable.

Meet Our Descendant Speakers

Jeanette Brod is the daughter of two Holocaust survivors. Her mother and father were both born in 1922. Her mother’s family was from Breslau, Germany, and her father’s family were from Lezajsk, Poland. Both her parents had large extended families who lived nearby. The events of the Holocaust happened to them and to their families. There are many stories she can tell about their experiences and many family photos and documents to be shared to reflect their histories.

She grew up in Queens, New York, in a community of Holocaust survivors. She has served as a Director of Lifelong Learning at a Connecticut synagogue and as vice president of the Children’s Book Council in New York. She has two grown children and currently lives in New Mildford, Connecticut.

Jeanette is available to speak about the following:

1935-1942: Life before the war in an extended family in Breslau; early responses to discrimination and persecution

1938-1939: Kristallnacht and her mother’s cousin’s experiences; responses that led to immigration to the United States

1939-1946: Her mother’s leaving home to become a nurse in the Jewish Hospital in Berlin

1939: Her mother’s cousin leaving Germany on the St. Louis with her parents, brother and husband and the family disembarking in Belgium

1939: Nazis invading her father’s hometown of Lezajsk and his family moving to the ghetto while some relatives leave Lezajsk

1942-1944: Her mother’s parents’ deportation to Theresienstadt

1942-1944: Theliquidation of the Lezajsk Ghetto in a pogrom and her father’s escape to the woods to become a partisan resistance fighter

1944-1948: Her father’s return home after the war; her mother’s postwar experiences in Berlin; her father becoming a patient in the Jewish Hospital; her parents marriage in Berlin in 1948.

Jean Hoffmann Lewanda is the daughter of Paul Hoffmann, who escaped Vienna, Austria to Shanghai, China in October 1938. Paul was able to bring other family members to Shanghai where they all survived the war, living in the Hongkew Ghetto from 1943 to 1945. While living in Shanghai, Paul received a university education, worked for an American law firm and witnessed the takeover of China by the communists. Paul remained in Shanghai until February 1952 and arrived in New York City with his young wife and one year old son in April 1953. Jean was born a year after their arrival. Paul went on to raise a family and have a successful law career in the United States. Jean is the editor of her father’s memoir, Witness to History: A Memoir of Escape, Survival and Resilience.

Jeff Israel’s parents were survivors of the Holocaust, and he is active in telling his family’s story. Jeff is a docent at the Museum of Jewish Civilization at the Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Hartford where he has spoken to over three thousand students and educators about the Holocaust and its implication in today’s society. Both of his parents were from Germany, and he presents on Kristallnacht and concentration camps. Jeff and his wife, Pat, have two sons, two granddaughters and a grandson. Jeff is a member of Temple Sinai in Newington, CT where he was a past president. He is also a member of Voices of Hope and serves on its board of directors as Director of Visual Productions.

Barbara Sperber was born in Feldafing, Germany, a year after the end of World War II. Both of her parents were Holocaust survivors. Each of them, except for one sibling, was the sole survivor of their large extended family in Poland. Barbara discusses the following two stories regarding their experiences.

One involves her parents’ lives before the war. Barbara’s mother was a 16-year-old girl living in a large city, while her father lived in a small agricultural town, both in Poland. They met during the war.  Barbara’s second story involves her parents’ experiences after the war. References to occurrences during the Holocaust are part of each story.

Barbara and her parents came to the United States when she was five years old.  After college, she first worked as a city planner and went to law school in the evenings.  She was an assistant for the attorney general until her retirement.  She is married with two sons and truly amazing grandchildren.