Celia Clement’s family would not have survived the Holocaust without the help of multiple rescuers who aided them on a treacherous four-year journey from Leipzig, Germany to a refugee camp in Switzerland in 1942.
Clement, an Ithaca resident who edited and narrated a memoir about her family, will speak about her family’s experience at the Eighth Annual Holocaust Memorial Day Lecture at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 27. The talk, sponsored by the Ithaca Area United Jewish Community, will be presented on Zoom and registration is available at https://tinyurl.com/3hr6ymjt
The commemoration, which is free and open to the public, will include a vocal performance by the Cornell Chai Notes, a candle-lighting ceremony honoring children of local Holocaust survivors, and a presentation by youth from Temple Beth-El about the importance of teaching the Holocaust.
With a focus on rescuers, Clement will discuss the story of how in 1938, seven members of her family escaped from Germany just after Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, the wave of pogroms the Nazis unleashed against German Jews. Their fight for survival included being imprisoned in French internment camps, hiding in a tiny tool shed, and adapting to the deplorable conditions of a Nazi prison.
After the family fled to France, a friend of Clement’s grandfather sheltered them in a tiny village in the unoccupied zone in the southern half of the country and then helped arrange for them to be smuggled to Switzerland. Two factors ultimately saved them: rescuers and enormous luck.
“If even one of the rescuers had not come forth to help the family, the outcome would have been much different, and most likely more tragic,” Clement said.
Clement’s book, Three Sisters: A True Holocaust Story of Love, Luck, and Survival, was published in 2020 on Amazon. The memoir is based on the accounts of her mother Alexandra Littauer, who was a lecturer of French at Cornell, and her mother’s two sisters, Eva Heymann and Judith Kashti.
“The book has really resonated with readers from all over the world,” Clement said.” It’s a very exciting and true story told in the words of three young women. Readers are left feeling uplifted rather than traumatized. I feel so fortunate that all three women left memoirs which they allowed me to use.”
A former social worker in the Ithaca City School District, Clement has given talks about her family’s Holocaust experience to students in grades 5 to 12 over the past five years. Clement hopes that her students make a connection between the family’s rescuers and the roles that students can play in their schools as upstanders, helping classmates who are being bullied.
“I like them to think about whether they can be an upstander in their community because it was the upstanders who saved our family’s lives,” she said.
Ithaca Area United Jewish Community is a non-profit organization that supports Jewish communities locally and around the world. The annual lecture was made possible by The Jacob and Jeannette Geldwert Holocaust Memorial Lectures Fund and Temple Beth-El.