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Lycoming County Brotherhood Alliance invites speaker to annual banquet

Ann Weiss

Ann Weiss is the daughter of two survivors from Poland, a region that is now in Ukraine. Author, and Founder/Director of Eyes from the Ashes Educational Foundation, Weiss has interviewed hundred of Holocaust Survivors in an effort to identify pre-war photos found in a locked room in Auschwitz, photos that Hitler never wanted anyone to see. Her research of these precious photographs that Jews carried into Auschwitz, when they believed they would be worked, not murdered, resulted in a traveling exhibition, a film, many seminars and her book, “The Last Album: Eyes from the Ashes of Auschwitz-Birkenau.” As a researcher, writer, photographer, documentary filmmaker, librarian and educator, she continues to tell the stories about the way these people once lived, rather than putting the emphasis solely on the way they died. She is also an interviewer and analyst for the Transcending Trauma Survival Project in Philadelphia, PA, and served on the Second Generation Advisory Committee of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. since its inception.

Ann has a Ph.D. from University of Pennsylvania in Education, Culture and Society, focusing on narratives, life studies and culture of Holocaust survivors. In addition, she holds graduate degrees from The Annenberg School for Communications, where she specialized in visual and political communication, and from Drexel University where she specialized in research techniques, as well as library service to adults, young adults and children. Her undergraduate degree is from University of Rochester, where she majored in English. Although not a traditional classroom teacher, Ann has taught in secondary schools and universities throughout the United States — and beyond. Her (not so simple) goal is clear: to open minds, and in the process, to open hearts. She has given presentations in Jerusalem, Sienna, Sarajevo, and just days before Russia’s 2014 invasion, in Ukraine as well.

In her Annenberg research, she investigated the impact of Holocaust images on public and private school students. In 1994, she introduced new research “Imagining the Unimaginable: Archival Photos from Auschwitz” at a conference in Berlin, co-sponsored by Humbolt and Oxford Universities, titled “Remembering for the Future.” In 1989, she premiered her documentary film, “Eyes from the Ashes,” in Jerusalem.

“An old man rushed up to the podium when I finished my speech in Israel. He pointed to one of the photos, a beautiful image of a bride and a groom, and said “I danced at this wedding!” At that moment, though I had believed that bringing these photos to Jerusalem had completed my work, I realized that, in reality, it had only begun. From that day until this day, I still search for names and stories, and most of all, people, who might belong to the photographs. In fact, just recently, on the night of the book’s premiere in Philadelphia, a man stood up and recognized his teacher! The story continues, and continues.”

“Each time a discovery is made, I feel as if, in a sense, a life has been reclaimed. Although I know it is not like restoring the dead to the living, I do know that each identification is important. The Nazis wanted their victims to be dehumanized– dead and dehumanized. They took away their names, replacing them with numbers. They destroyed their personal photos so that we could not see their faces. Not only did the Nazis destroy their lives, but they even tried to destroy the memory of their lives. With these photos, they can be remembered as people, not bodies, and in this sense, they live.”

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