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Trusted local news leader for Prescott area communities since 1882
3:19 PM Tue, Nov. 13th

Holocaust survivor: 'Forgiveness is the key' to survival

PRESCOTT - Irene Danon, 82, said she survived the Holocaust in the former Yugoslavia by hiding from the Nazis during World War II.

And while the Nazis killed several of her family members in concentration camps, Danon said she has learned to forgive the Germans and other nationalities responsible for the genocide of 6 million Jews.

"I hope to show the world the Holocaust really happened, and in order to move on and heal myself, I have learned to forgive," Danon said. "Forgiveness is the key for survival and healing."

Danon, who recently self-published a memoir, titled "Failure is Not an Option," said she carries that message when she speaks about the Holocaust at churches.

Forgiving is not forgetting, she said.

Another Prescott resident who survived the Holocaust, Abe Greenberg, has a different take.

"Let's be selective about forgiving," said Greenberg, who was born in Lublin, Poland, and lost about 40 members on his mother's side of his family.

Danon retorted, "I believe in blanket forgiveness."

Greenberg, 75, responded, "Irene is a better person."

Danon said both of her parents died in their 60s because they could not forgive, and her brother died at age 57 for the same reason.

Danon, Greenberg and Herman Schloss, 83, of Prescott Valley, discussed the worst chapter in Jewish history Monday over coffee and dessert at Murphy's Restaurant.

The three were among the lucky European Jews who evaded the Nazis and escaped death. They will speak on the theme of children of the Holocaust at Days of Remembrance at 3 p.m. Sunday in the Performance Hall of Yavapai College, 1100 E. Sheldon St., Prescott.

Schloss, a native of Sugenheim, Germany, obtained a visa in late 1938 to join family members who immigrated earlier that year to the United States.

He recalls Kristallnacht on Nov. 9 and 10, 1938, when rampaging mobs throughout Germany, the newly acquired territories of Austria and the Sudetenland attacked and killed Jews in the streets, in their homes, places of work and synagogues.

Schloss said seven members of his extended family stayed behind in Germany, and most of them perished in a concentration camp in Riga, Latvia.

Unlike Schloss, Greenberg and Danon, who was born in Belgrade, stayed behind and went into hiding.

"When the Nazis offered an opportunity to go settle in a concentration camp (around 1940), we declined," Greenberg said.

He said his family gave their belongings to friends and neighbors and hid in the forest, which they owned because they were in the lumber business. He also hid in fields.

Living in hiding lasted about three and a half years, in family groups of no more than four or five people to evade detection, Greenberg said.

Greenberg said he and his family returned to Lublin in 1944 after Russian and Polish troops headed toward Warsaw. The family left Poland in 1946 and headed first to Berlin before immigrating to the United States in 1949, settling in Oklahoma City.

Danon said she went into hiding during the same years as Greenberg.

"We were in fields, cellars, sewers, caves," she said. She added her father escaped from a death camp in Yugoslavia.

She was living in a displaced persons camp in 1944 when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt invited her, her parents and two brothers to the United States as "guests." First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt visited them in a refugee camp in Oswego, N.Y.

Danon, Greenberg and Schloss rebuilt their lives in the United States, raised families, pursued careers and retired to the Prescott area.

Schloss said schools need to do a better job teaching about the Holocaust as well as genocides that have taken place since then in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Sudan.

Schloss, Greenberg and Danon will speak at an event, now in its seventh year, that the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Prescott and other organizations are sponsoring. Admission is free.