Lowenberg tapped for state task force

When a state task force designed to promote education about the Holocaust and genocide solicited San Francisco's William Lowenberg, they got a man who, unfortunately, has seen more than his share of both.

The German-born Lowenberg survived several concentration camps, a death march, and was forced onto the demolition corps during the Nazis' destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto. He said he hopes his term on the task force helps to educate more California students about the Holocaust and other dark moments in human history.

"This is mainly to monitor and push Holocaust education in the school system, which is a state law now," he said.

"Survivors should know that people are doing something about this."

The California Task Force on Holocaust, Genocide, Human Rights and Tolerance Education was created last year when Gov. Gray Davis signed a bill authored by Assemblyman Paul Koretz (D-West Hollywood) creating a Center of Excellence on the Study of the Holocaust and Genocide.

The center is housed at Chico State University, where it is overseen by Professor Sam Edelman. The fledgling task force's charge is to aid the training of teachers in Holocaust and genocide studies, and to promote educational events on both topics.

"Bill Lowenberg is not only a survivor of the Holocaust, but he has been one of the most important Californians to help develop the national Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. And he's been in the forefront of the effort to educate young kids about the issues that have come out of the Holocaust," said Edelman.

"Because it's his passion and because of his knowledge and ability to communicate, he's been a role model for many of us who teach about the Shoah."

Lowenberg stressed that the task force is not exclusively Jewish, as one of his fellow appointees is Leon Kirakosian, a Southern California lawyer and former professor who is well-versed in the Armenian genocide of the early 20th century.

With funds earmarked for teacher training in Holocaust and genocide studies gone due to the state budget crisis, Edelman and Lowenberg hope to set up private funding for the project. Edelman noted that the center is up and running, and the first $100,000 has been raised.

Lowenberg, who already speaks in Bay Area high schools, hopes to spread his message around the state.

"What amazes me most is the demand from the children," he said. "They really want to know what happened."

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi is the managing editor at Mission Local. He is a former editor-at-large at San Francisco magazine, former columnist at SF Weekly and a former J. staff writer.