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Holocaust Survivor Story Inspires CNR First-Year Honors Students

September 17, 2014
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Stan Friedmann speaks to freshman Honors students in Ursula Hall.

The story of a deaf Jewish woman's courage and survival from her parents' neglect, a childhood rape, and escape from Nazi Germany has inspired many ­­­­­and even changed the perception of the Holocaust for some freshman Honors students at The College of New Rochelle.

Thoughts of murder and bloodshed surrounding the Holocaust turned to feelings of strength and survival after the students heard the story of Ingelore Herz Honigstein.

"Ingelore," an award-winning documentary directed and produced by one of the woman's sons, was presented Wednesday, September 17, to Honors First Year Experience students as part of the program's "Voices in Conversation" theme.

Ingelore's journey hits close to home for Stan Friedmann, who grew up in Washington Heights with the woman's two sons. Friedmann, a former history teacher in the Bronx who is now a director at Mount Tom Day Camp in New Rochelle, presented his "Ingelore: The Legacy" educational program to the CNR students.

Friedmann detailed Ingelore's perseverance and ability to develop a vibrant personality, despite being deaf and shunned by her parents for being mute. Ingelore was 6 years old when a foster father finally inspired her first word.

Ingelore's fight, however, went beyond just her lack of hearing. Ingelore, who died in July 2012 at the age of 88, was raped as a teen by two Nazi cadets. She became pregnant, and had an abortion soon after she fled to the United States.

Ingelore found a new life in New York and eventually raised two sons, but she never shared her early-life story until she was 75 years old. Her son, Frank Stiefel, then turned her arduous journey into an inspiring documentary that has aired on HBO.

The 40-minute film, which mixes speech with sign language and includes subtitles, inspired the students to think about the struggle to feel accepted and how victims are perceived.

"You don't think of victims as people," one student said. "When you think about the Holocaust, you don't think about the survivors. You don't think about what they went through and what they continue to go through."

The Honors First Year Experience, led by Professor Jorge Medina, is connected to the Living Learning Community for Honors students residing in Ursula Hall. "In these first weeks, we are trying to create a comfortable rapport amongst the new Honors cohort, and special programs such as this one help us to do that," said Professor Amy Bass, director of the Honors Program.