‘Teach Holocaust history:’ A message for future generations

This week marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day to honor the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust. The genocide was also the topic for “Hear Me Out,” a series by LA Times Studios that expands on letters to the editor. In this episode, Trevor Jackson, a photographer documenting Holocaust survivors stories meets his great aunt who escaped Nazi Germany.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    This week marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

    In their video series "Hear Me Out," the Los Angeles Times Studios, expand on letters to the editor, allowing writers to share more of their stories.

    In this episode, Trevor Jackson, a photographer documenting holocaust survivors stories, meets his great aunt — who escaped Nazi Germany.

  • Trevor Jackson:

    When I initially got the assignment, I was going to photograph Holocaust survivors as they were interviewing and telling their stories and the things that they had experienced. I had no idea that it would end in the kitchen of my great aunt's house.

  • Betsy Kaplan:

    Hi! How are you?

  • Trevor Jackson:

    Hey, Grandma Betsy!

  • Betsy Kaplan:

    Good to see you! Come in.

  • Trevor Jackson:

    Can I get you to stand right here?

  • Betsy Kaplan:

    Right here?

  • Trevor Jackson:

    I didn't think we were going to look at my family and our history, but it was so similar to the stories that we were hearing. And I thought, why not document and tell the story to a new generation, to my generation?

  • Betsy Kaplan:

    You probably don't know what half of this stuff is. I mean, these are from grandpa and grandma, they bought it in Germany. But it comes from Japan.

  • Trevor Jackson:

    So there's the tusk, and then we have our mini Torah.

  • Betsy Kaplan:

    Yeah, it's a mini Torah. And this is, and they're all stuck in, it's a horn. What do they call it, a shofar?

  • Trevor Jackson:

    Shofar. Yeah.

  • Trevor Jackson:

    Betsy is my grandmother's twin sister. My grandma has since passed and Grandma Betsy is my sort of link to my grandma and my history and our family heritage. Oftentimes, people are surprised when they hear that I have a Jewish grandma or I have a German heritage because you wouldn't know by looking at me.

  • Trevor Jackson:

    Yeah, you're going to look at this camera. OK?

  • Betsy Kaplan:

    OK.

  • Trevor Jackson:

    All right. Here we go. I'll take a photo.

  • Trevor Jackson:

    I think it's always important to understand my roots and where I come from and to understand just a piece of the pie, a piece of this puzzle about how I got to where I am.

  • Betsy Kaplan:

    Come on, I made you something. Come on, sit down.

  • Trevor Jackson:

    What is that?

  • Betsy Kaplan:

    Very good, very good.

  • Trevor Jackson:

    I remember talking to grandma about what a difficult choice that was to make for your dad to leave everything behind and venture to a new world and a place he had never been, he'd only read up about it. If I was in that situation, I have absolutely no idea what I would do. But it's interesting.

  • Betsy Kaplan:

    What would you do?

  • Trevor Jackson:

    I don't know. I don't know. I don't know what I'd do.

  • Betsy Kaplan:

    Yeah. But I mean, you have to think about grandpa. And he made up his mind. He was going to go. 1933 is when Hitler came to power, and that's when my father became a father. You know, we were born in '33. And so he thought, maybe I ought to make a move out of here.

  • Trevor Jackson:

    So the family that stayed in Germany, most of them, they all were German Jews, right? All of them were sent to camps and none of them survived.

  • Betsy Kaplan:

    Right. I can't in my mind really figure out how people can be so cruel to each other. It's ugly. It's unbelievable. They wouldn't let the Jews have their stores. They would break down the glass, the windows. They just didn't want them there, you know?

  • Trevor Jackson:

    Is there anything that we as a younger generation can do other than acknowledging it but being proactive and finding a way…

  • Betsy Kaplan:

    I think number one is important that it should be taught in school. It should be discussed because if you don't hear about it and you just read about it, it's almost like a fairy tale. If you don't realize it really happened.

  • Trevor Jackson:

    And pretty soon there's not going to be anybody around who experienced any of it.

  • Betsy Kaplan:

    No, right. And my generation is probably the last generation to be here to have witnessed it. The new generation, your generation, has to be aware of it.

  • Trevor Jackson:

    Absolutely, that's what this brings up. The fact that we can't change the past, but we can change going forward.

  • Betsy Kaplan:

    That is a good picture of both of them.

  • Trevor Jackson:

    There aren't too many photos of your dad. He seemed to be behind the camera much more than he was in front of it.

  • Betsy Kaplan:

    Who, dad? Yeah. Yeah, you're right.

  • Trevor Jackson:

    Do you want to see some of his cameras that I brought?

  • Betsy Kaplan:

    Yeah, I love it!

  • Trevor Jackson:

    Let's take a look.

  • Betsy Kaplan:

    I know that's a Rolleiflex.

  • Trevor Jackson:

    Yeah, this was his.

  • Betsy Kaplan:

    Let me see it, let me see it.

  • Trevor Jackson:

    Yeah, this is his old Rolleiflex.

  • Trevor Jackson:

    I am always grateful for the opportunity to talk to older individuals like Grandma Betsy or older uncles.

  • Trevor Jackson:

    Look that way, just a little bit, half that, and then look back at me.

  • Trevor Jackson:

    You know, I think it is so coincidental that I found cameras from my great grandfather. And today I got to shoot photos with that same lens of my great aunt, and that dynamic is so funny that, you know, it has traveled across the world, it has traveled across generation and race and age. And I get to continue to add life to this lens and add life to this family's story.

  • Trevor Jackson:

    All right, here we go three, two and one.

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