By Alan Simons

OCTOBER 27, 2008 -The Azrieli Foundation is a Canadian philanthropic organization that supports a wide range of initiatives and programs in the fields of education, architecture and design, Jewish community, Holocaust commemoration and education, scientific and medical research, and the arts.

In 2005, the Foundation established the Holocaust Survivor Memoirs Publishing Program.

David J. Azrieli, the Canadian philanthropist, conceived the Program after writing his memoirs about escaping the Nazis. “Writing my own memoirs about this dark period in history was not easy, even with the support of my family. As a result, I felt an obligation to seek out and preserve the written works of other Holocaust survivors. These unique historical documents offer insights that can be provided only by those who lived through it.”

Recently, I had the opportunity of meeting Elin Beaumont, the Program’s newly appointed Program Coordinator. The Program is reputed to be the only one of its kind that “collects, edits, publishes and distributes the written memoirs and diaries of Holocaust survivors who made their way to Canada at some point in their lives,” she said. Scholarly assistance in editing and preparing the memoirs for publication is provided in collaboration with Canada’s York University Centre for Jewish Studies. York University established Canada’s first interdisciplinary research centre in Jewish studies nearly twenty years ago.

The books are published under the imprint The Azrieli Series of Holocaust Survivor Memoirs. In 2007, the Foundation launched the first series of seven memoirs. The authors incur no charge for the publishing of their memoirs and they retain the rights to them.

“To date about 170 manuscripts have been submitted in forms ranging from stories consisting of three to several hundred pages. Poems are also accepted,” remarked Beaumont. “Children of survivors can also submit their parent’s written memoirs to our program, on their behalf,” she added.

Submissions may be made in any language, typed or handwritten. Memoirs written in a language other than English or French are translated into English and/or French. Memoirs maybe edited for clarity and grammar and accuracy. Authors or their heirs are requested to review and approve the final text for approval before it goes to print.

Distributed free of charge

The published memoirs are distributed free of charge, both in sets and in single copies. They are made available to public and reference libraries, schools, book clubs, colleges and universities as well as to Holocaust Education Centres, individuals, synagogues and church libraries across Canada, as well as to Europs and Israel upon request.  A total of 30,000 books in English and in French were printed for series one.  The French books are already out of stock and I understand will be reprinted early next year for distribution.

Beaumont said she sees the publishing of the memoirs as playing “an important role in educating the public about courage, strength, the faith in humanity and in the dangers of racial and religious intolerance.”

The second series will be published in April 2009. Five books will be in English and three in French.

Last year, at the Montréal inaugural launch of the memoirs, Mme. Simone Veil, Holocaust survivor, first President of the European Parliament and former minister of the French government, remarked in her keynote address: “For us, for survivors, these stories represent our vigilance. We will not be around for very long. This vigilance will now pass on to our children and grandchildren, and I believe that what you are doing will contribute to ensuring that the truth will not be distorted.”

For more information about the Holocaust Survivor Memoirs Publishing Program contact: Elin Beaumont, Program Coordinator at  elin@azrielifoundation.org or telephone 1+ (416) 322- 5928. Details are also available at http://www.azrielifoundation.org/memoirs


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