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Holocaust survivor Fanny Gelernter Wednesday

3/20/2012 —


"Holocaust, In Rememberance"
Noon, Wednesday, April 4, Forum Theatre

Survivor Francine Gelernter of Pittsburgh gives a first-hand account of the atrocities of the Holocaust at noon, Wednesday, April 4, in the campus Forum Theatre, as guest speaker of Penn State New Kensington's annual program, "Holocaust, in Remembrance."

Born in 1932 in Kovno, Lithuania, Gelernter and her family were persecuted by Russian communists for being upper class, and later by Nazis for being Jewish.  In 1940, her father was sent to Siberia by the Russians following their invasion of Lithuania and was never heard from again. Later that year, Gelernter and her mother were forced into a Jewish ghetto by the invading Germans.  Gelernter’s sister avoided that fate by escaping to Mongolia where she lived until her death in 2004.

In 1941, Gelernter, her mother, grandmother and two aunts were sent to Stutthof Concentration Camp by the Nazis. Like all adults and children in concentration camps, they were separated after arriving at Stutthof, which was located near Gdansk, Poland. Because of her advanced age, the grandmother was put to death a short time later. The two aunts died as prisoners because of a fever, a common malady in the camp. Gelernter and her mother survived disease and starvation for five years before being liberated, ironically, by the Russians. Stutthof was the last concentration camp that was liberated; Gelernter was 13-years old.

Reunited with her mother, Gelernter returned to Germany before the family, which now included a step-father, immigrated to the United States in 1950. They relocated in Pittsburgh with the assistance of United Jewish Federation. Two years later, Fanny, as she is known to her friends, married Simon Gelernter, a Holocaust survivor from the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp.

Fanny taught Sunday School at Temple Rodef Shalom in Pittsburgh for thirty-five years. Simon passed on, and Fanny finds comfort in their two children and four grandchildren. She continues with numerous speaking engagements, especially at grade schools, in a quest to keep the Holocaust story fresh and to keep history from repeating.

The Remembrance program is sponsored by Lois Rubin, associate professor of English, and the Office of Student Affairs. The program is free to the public, but group reservations are recommended. For information, call 724-334-6062.

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