Events / Ryerson

Faye Schulman: Photographer and Holocaust Survivor

By Abigale Subdhan

Feature image: Courtesy of Ryersonian.ca; captured by Anna Piszczkiewicz.

In an open-spaced room teeming with intent listeners, Faye Schulman stood tall in front of a podium. She wore an army jacket adorned with eight gleaming medals as she spoke passionately about her experience with the Holocaust.

Schulman, a guest speaker at Ryerson University on Tuesday, is one of the many stories that commemorate the 30th anniversary of Holocaust Education Week which runs from Nov. 1 to Nov. 9.  She recounted her unique story to a group of about 90 audience members –half being youth.

The audience was in awe as she repeated memories that were both bitter and sweet from a time that seemed so long ago.

Once the Nazis invaded Poland, Schulman’s family was forced to move from their comfortable house in Lenin to a small ghetto. There she witnessed her family being brutally killed.

She soon escaped from Nazi control to join the partisans, an army that fought against Nazi rule, and lived within the woods. As a partisan, she helped to rescue many and acted as a nurse to those who were wounded despite having no experience with medicine.

Her only method of coping was through photography. She was taught this art by her eldest brother and spent many hours of her childhood in the darkroom of her house. She decided to capture each memory of the war through her camera, despite the risky repercussions it could have if the Nazis discovered them.

She showed these pictures to her audience as they swarmed around her to glance at the pictures that depicted undocumented history. Pictures of her life before the war, her life in the woods as a partisan and her life with her husband sprawled against a table acting as the only testimony to Schulman’s hardship, apart from her stories.

“This is in my blood. This was my life – photography,” said Schulman.

Through her stories and images, Schulman brought to life a picture of the war and the carnage that she never wants the kids of this generation to experience.

“I want to show these kids that there shouldn’t be war. There should be peace. [It] is such a horrible thing. In war, both sides are killed and I hope that they will never experience [it],” said Schulman.

Lorraine Sandler, chair of the Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre, believes that since youth are the future, it is their responsibility to spread these stories.

“You are the witness of the ceremony [and] you, as youth, should transmit these stories,” she said.

Now a mother and grandmother, Schulman reflects on the past and her struggle to survive. She has written a book called A Partisan’s Memoir: Woman of the Holocaust and has been the subject of a documentary by Bishari Films, Out of the Fire. She also gives speeches regularly to share the importance of Holocaust education.

She says that she will continue to tell her story of determination, inspiration and courage not only so people will know about the atrocities committed during the war or about the ones who suffered because of ignorance. But, so everyone will know that that they did fight back.

“I am wearing my medals to show you that there was resistance. We did fight back. I want to show [this] not only for myself, but for the many that did not survive.”

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