Meir Rappaport, 12, with Holocaust survivor Eugen Stern, 91.
Religious history instructor Rabbi Shiye Rosen’s 21 all-male eighth grade class at the Bobov Bais Medrash school on 15th Avenue has completed a 208- page book featuring first person tales of escaping war.
“The generation of the Holocaust is dying out. The community is dying out. The community is getting smaller and smaller. Twenty years from now, you are not going to be able to meet a guy who survived the Holocaust,” said Rosen, 27,. “I felt that we had to do this project now.”
Each boy spent the entire school year tracking down survivors in their own families, competing lengthy interviews, and then writing a chapter about their relatives’ World War II terrors.
Rosen named the book “Your Elders Should Tell You,” written in Hebrew, raising $1,200 to print out 100 copies of the work.
“When you write something down, it becomes history,” Rosen said, giving out five books this week to the families of each of his budding authors.
City Jewish organizations said there are around 19,000 seniors living in the borough who had endured Nazi atrocities.
“As this population gets older, it is getting frail. A lot of them are losing memory. A lot of them don’t want to remember,” said Jackie Ebron, director of client services at Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, which runs the Holocaust Survivor Program, a support network across the city that provides health care and home visits.
“These children are brave to ask them these questions. Every nationality should do it,” said Ebron. “Ask your elders ‘how did you survive?’”
Survivor Eugen Stern, 91, was the first guest invited to hear the boys read their work during a break from class on Tuesday.
Stern is known in the neighborhood as one of the more outspoken seniors often telling stories in synagogue about fleeing Nazi occupied Slovak Republic by joining the Russian army.
“It was nice to see all the small children take this all in,” Stern said. “The young generation should know that the Almighty is in front of you, even in the most terrible situations.”
The kids didn’t spare their audience from their relatives’ memories detailing torture at the camps.
Meir Rapaport, 12, based his 13-page chapter on hours of phone conversations with his 81-year-old great grandmother Miriam Rapport - who avoided the gas chambers in Auschwitz as a teenager by toiling away at a labor camp within the massive prison compound.
Miriam Rapaport lived under Nazi rule until the end of the war.
“The Americans were dropping bombs on the Nazis and the Nazis went into the bunkers and left the Jews outside,” said Meir Rapaport. “A bomb hit the ground but it didn’t bust. My great grandmother threw up. Then she was deaf for three months.”
The rookie historian then urged city school kids of all backgrounds to learn what happened to their relatives before they were born.
“My grandchildren will get this book and they can learn what people went through,” Meir Rapaport said. “It is important to know history.”