Sonia Weitz Remembered

Holocaust Survivor and Educator 

June 24, 2010 

I had the pleasure of knowing and working with Sonia Weitz, co-founder along with Harriet Wacks of the Holocaust Center, Boston North[1] about ten years ago. I was unemployed at the time and was able to assist the center get its website off the ground. Sonia died last night after a battle with cancer[2] – but you could also say she had battled her entire life. As each of us travel through life we encounter various people who teach us and whose knowledge stays with us – Sonia was one of those people for so many. 

Sonia Weitz went through so much more in her childhood than most of us could imagine. Born in Poland in she was a witness to Nazi Germany’s attack on her homeland and she saw the horrors of her mother being taken away to a concentration camp by the Nazis. Sonia lost 80 members of her family to the war and Holocaust and her only other family was her sister who also survived. 

I have often thought how would I have handled such a situation (it is even wishful thinking to suggest one has a choice in how to handle something like the Holocaust) – I think I would be rebellious, but perhaps that is false bravado – and would have likely cost me my life even quicker. A more interesting idea is how do you handle it after it is all over? Are you bitter? Hateful? Resentful? Biased? Well, it certainly would be understandable if you were – but Sonia turned all of the negativity from her youth in to a passion to write, share an educate children and adults. 

Sonia wrote an incredible first-person account of her experiences during the Holocaust I Promised I Would Tell. The book contains some of her original poetry along with her difficult journey through the war and the Holocaust. This book is just part of her gift to all of us. Sonia and Harriet’s work at the Holocaust Center, Boston North has helped to educate thousands of children in the Boston area to the horrors of the Holocaust and other genocides throughout history and through our present day. Perhaps Sonia’s biggest legacy will be her work with the Holocaust Legacy Partner program. This program paired a survivor with a person who promised to continue to tell that person’s story after they died. This coupled with an extensive DVD collection of Holocaust survivor’s accounts will be instrumental in continuing to educate future generations. 

A friend of mine, Adam Swift was formerly a journalist in the Peabody area who had many times heard Sonia speak and he was equally moved by her and saddened by her death. I am including some of Adam’s words here as they further convey the effect Sonia Weitz had on all who heard her speak: 

I did not know Sonia Weitz that well, but during my time as a reporter at the Peabody Weekly News I was lucky enough to meet her several times. What I remember most about Sonia was that she was so full of energy and life. To realize what she had gone through as a teenage girl and then to see her decades later, making sure no one ever forgot one of the most horrible and tragic periods in the history of the world was inspirational.

One of the most moving events I covered was an event put on by the Holocaust Center of the North Shore that brought together Holocaust survivors with surviving soldiers who had liberated the concentration camps. In what Sonia was able to do, and her attitude in doing so, was living proof that we must never forget the past, but with a positive attitude that showed that no matter how dark the past was, there was always a hope for the future. 

Adam and I are both fathers of small children – we know the world is a dangerous place and horrible things can happen anywhere and anytime. I feel a bit better knowing that people like Sonia Weitz were in our world and were so giving of their time and were so willing to share their own personal stories and nightmares to help all of us become more enlightened and to never forget the horrors of the Holocaust and of genocide.By our remembrance we can hope for a freer and more peaceful future.

Thank you Sonia for sharing your experiences with all of us – you will be missed. 




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4 Responses to “Sonia Weitz Remembered”

  1. Kate Says:

    Thank you for sharing Mike.

  2. Kate Says:

    Thank you for sharing Mike. I will be looking for that book. Peace.

  3. cweinblatt Says:

    I never cease to be amazed with the courage and tenacity exhibited by many survivors of the Shoah. In researching for my Holocaust book, I met several survivors who felt comfortable discussing their experiences with me. Some of them routinely speak with students and other groups, recounting the horror of Nazi genocide. Their courage is inspiring and we will remember them always.

    Whenever we stand up to those who deny or minimize genocide we send a critical message to the world. As we continue to live in an age of genocide and ethnic cleansing, we must repel the broken ethics of our ancestors, or risk a dreadful repeat of past transgressions.

    A world that continues to allow genocide requires ethical remediation. We should insist that religious, racial, gender, orientation and ethnic persecution is wrong; and that tolerance is our progeny’s only hope. Only through such efforts can we reveal the true horror of genocide and promote the triumphant spirit of humankind.

    Charles Weinblatt
    Author, Jacob’s Courage

    • sapblatt Says:

      Charles –
      Thank you for your thoughtful comments – it is important as you say to remember all of the horrors that man is capable of.
      Take care

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