Adena Astrowsky was so touched by her grandmother’s story of surviving the Holocaust, she wrote “Living among the Dead: My Grandmother’s Holocaust Survival Story of Love and Strength.” The book was published last March.
Soon after she discovered 3GNY, a group of third-generation descendants of Holocaust survivors. She shared her grandmother’s story of survival during one of the group’s virtual events in October.
Astrowsky was inspired to start a local group — 3GAZ — after learning there are other 3G groups in cities around the nation. It is now a part of the Phoenix Holocaust Association where Astrowsky is a board member.
One of 3GAZ’s missions will be to train 3Gs, as they call themselves, to speak with students in classrooms and share their grandparents’ stories. And Astrowsky also hopes to host events and feature speakers, as other 3G groups do.
“I think it’s very important for us to be able to pass on their legacies to our children, many of whom will never meet or really get to know their great-grandparents,” Astrowsky said. “And I think it’s also almost equally important that we remain aware of what our ancestors had to go through in order to survive, especially as we’re seeing such a rise and an uptick of anti-Semitism in the world.”
Astrowsky’s book recounts Mania Lichtenstein’s experience living through the rise of the Nazi regime, World War II and its aftermath. Lichtenstein was interned for three years in a labor camp and was the only survivor from her family.
Lichtenstein died in 2017 at 94, but Astrowsky is determined to have her story — as well as those of other Holocaust survivors — live on, through 3GAZ.
This week marks the 76th anniversary of Auschwitz’s liberation, and Astrowsky worries the Holocaust is “becoming more and more forgotten.”
A national survey commissioned by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany recently found that “when asked how many Jews were killed during the Holocaust, 63% of millennials (those aged 25-40) and Gen Z (those aged 18-24) did not know 6 million Jews were murdered.” That figure climbed to 67% in Arizona. The survey also found 11% of national respondents — 15% in Arizona — believe Jews caused the Holocaust.
To form 3GAZ, Astrowsky got a list of email addresses of 3Gs who have reached out to the PHA in the last couple of years. That led to a core group of seven who are shaping the initiative.
“I’ve always been interested in the 3G aspects of continuation of this special feeling that I’m descended from a survivor of this terrible thing,” said Jennifer Sosnow, one of the seven. “And so I’ve always wanted to not let go of that. I wanted to make something of it.”
Sosnow’s maternal grandparents are both survivors. Her grandfather, Seymour Adelman, was interned in the largest Auschwitz sub-camp, Buna, and put to work wiring buildings. The quality of his work saved him: He was pulled out of the line of people waiting to enter the gas chamber.
“His kapo pulls him and says, ‘Come back with me, you’re too good to lose,’ and saves his life,” Sosnow said. “My grandfather says he has three birthdays: the day he was born, the day he got saved in Auschwitz, and the day he got liberated.”
Seymour Adelman died in 2014.
Sosnow’s grandmother, Rebecca Adelman, was interned in labor camps where she built barracks for soldiers.
“One day, they went to put the shovels back from where they were working and no one was there to collect the shovels,” Sosnow said. That’s how she found out she was liberated.
“They looked around and they said they saw that everyone, all the Nazis, were gone,” she said. “So they just took off and left.”
Rebecca Adelman is now 94.
Sosnow is certain her grandmother will love the mission of 3GAZ.
“We’ve gone with her to the Holocaust museum in Illinois — we have a stone there in honor of my grandfather.”
Astrowsky said it will take time for 3GAZ to plan its programming, but they have already issued their first newsletter.
The group will have its first official meeting next week.
In observance of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, members of 3GAZ will attend 3GNY’s virtual program “A 3G Perspective: Preserving the Memory of Auschwitz Survivors” which is open to the public. JN