Doris Martin (née Szpringer) passed away on Aug. 3, 2022, at her home in California. In 2000, Martin, along with her husband, Ralph, founded the Martin-Springer Institute at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.
The Institute’s mission is to “bring the experiences of the Holocaust into sharp focus in order to understand those events in the context of today’s concerns and crises. Through public presentations, exhibits, teacher training, symposia and special events, we seek to use insights and lessons from the past to address current conflicts — including the treatment of refugees, mass violence and genocide.”
In 2009, the Martins co-authored “Kiss Every Step: A Survivor’s Memoir from the Nazi Holocaust,” which shared Doris Martin’s story as a Holocaust survivor. Born in 1926, she was 12 years old when the Nazis invaded Poland and forced the Szpringer family into Bedzin’s ghetto.
In 1942, she was deported to Auschwitz and later to a labor camp at Ludwigsdorf. She was forced to manufacture explosives and electronics for the German war effort. Martin survived on a bowl of soup, a piece of bread and a cup of coffee daily. Digging through the garbage for food became a nightly ritual for her during the three years in the camp.
As the end of the war neared, the Nazis informed prisoners that they would evacuate the camp and begin a death march to leave ahead of the approaching Soviet army. On the morning the death march was set to begin, Soviet soldiers rather than Nazis awakened the prisoners — they were liberated.
Her parents, sister and two of her brothers posed as Polish citizens and lived in hiding during the war, while her third brother fled to the Soviet Union. All seven family members survived and were reunited after World War II.
“Through the Eyes of Youth: Life and Death in the Bedzin Ghetto,” is a traveling exhibit made possible through the Martin-Springer Institute. The exhibition, inspired by Martin, tells the story of the young people in the Jewish ghetto of Bedzin (Poland) before, during and after the Holocaust.
Shortly after the war, Martin’s mother died and while her brothers married and remained in Europe, her sister and father immigrated to the United States in 1950.
She married Louis Rabinowitz and had a son, Allen. Rabinowitz died of cancer within three years of the couple’s wedding day. She later married Ralph Martin and they moved to Flagstaff in 1971.
“This is my job,” she said, “to talk about how the Holocaust should not be forgotten,” Martin told the AZ Daily Sun in a 2014 interview. “All of us have to do this together, we don’t have to have hate. We can live in this world in peace.”
Martin is survived by her husband, Ralph Martin; son, Allen Rabin; sister, Rae Harvey; and niece, Betsy (David) Rosner. Services were held Aug. 7 at Mount Sinai Memorial Park in Los Angeles, Calif. JN