Holocaust overload rejected at museum fund-raiser

“I have heard the term ‘Holocaust-overload,'” Meyer Gottlieb, a noted film producer and child of Holocaust survivors, told a crowd of over 100 in Berkeley last week. “I was told that editors of some of America’s most important newspapers think the Holocaust is no longer newsworthy.”

Strongly disagreeing with that opinion, Gottlieb voiced his concerns at the 2005 Bay Area dinner/fund-raiser for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum held Tuesday, Dec. 13, at Berkeley’s Claremont Resort. More than $50,000 was raised.

The event marked the first such local fund-raiser for the Washington, D.C. museum in nearly three years. Chairs of the event were Claudia and Rick Felson of Castro Valley, Susan and Moses Libitzky of Piedmont and honorary chair Mathilde Albers of Oakland.

In attendance besides leading philanthropists and activists in the Bay Area Jewish community were several local Holocaust survivors. Their presence served as a reminder that the museum touches countless lives today.

More than 23 million people have visited the Holocaust museum since it opened in 1992. Speakers at the Berkeley event noted that the museum’s mission of Holocaust education is more important than ever.

Gottlieb is president of Samuel Goldwyn Films, which distributed “Rosenstrasse,” a 2004 screen drama that recounts a true wartime incident in Nazi Germany during which non-Jewish wives successfully protested the arrest of their Jewish husbands. Following his

remarks Gottlieb screened a trailer of “Rosenstrasse.”

Oscar-nominated filmmaker Daniel Anker, who made the documentary “Imaginary Witness: Hollywood and the Holocaust,” added that “any telling of the Holocaust is a good thing. In terms of bearing witness, the Holocaust Museum will do it better than any other.”

Perhaps the most moving moment came during a filmed speech delivered by World War II veteran Howard Cwick at Yom HaShoah services at the D.C. Museum last May. He tearfully recounted his experience as a “21-year-old mama’s boy” liberating the Buchenwald death camp and how he decided then to devote his life to making sure the world would never forget what he saw there.

Attendee Shelly Davis of Alamo found herself gasping during the film clip, which included archival photos of the 1945 Buchenwald liberation. In one of the shots taken in the barracks, she recognized a Jewish inmate as her Polish cousin.

“He was about 19 or 20 at the time,” said Davis after the presentation. She only discovered his existence relatively recently. The cousin now lives in Florida, while another cousin who survived today lives in Germany. “The most miraculous thing is having them in my life,” added Davis.

Also moved by the evening was East Bay Jewish community activist Betsy Pottruck. “It was heart-wrenching to see [the images],” she said afterwards. “I’ve been to the museum three times and every time it was mobbed. It’s up to us to teach our children” about the Holocaust.

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.