Memories of a Lost World, from a Living Survivor

“I was given a new name... I was given a new religion... I was told never to mention, at the cost of my life, that I was a Jew.” - Leon Chameides, M.D.

Jewish Historical Society of Greater Hartford, a local Federation partner, collects, preserves, and shares the history of our region’s Jewish community and its contributions to society through a variety of media – including the very personal stories of beloved community members. Below, JHS Program Administrator Lynn Newman shares a recap of “Poland, the Jews, and My Family,” a virtual program with Holocaust survivor and renowned pediatric cardiologist Leon Chameides, M.D., held in January.

In January 2021, over 200 people took part in “Poland, the Jews, and My Family,” a virtual program with  Holocaust survivor Leon Chameides, M.D., presented by the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Hartford and Voices of Hope and co-sponsored by The Emanuel Synagogue. Community interest was so strong that we exceeded the limits of our Zoom account! 
Dr. Chameides gave a thorough overview of Jewish history in Poland and addressed several common misunderstandings about the country. Poland was a home to Jews for over a millennium – and for many years it was the largest country in Europe. In fact, at the nation’s peak, it was home to 80% of the global Jewish population. 

The talk also recounted his own family’s experiences in Poland before and during World War II and his childhood years spent in hiding within a Ukrainian Greek Catholic monastery. 

“The program was excellent!” said one appreciative participant. “I learned so much because Dr. Chameides was so clear.” 

Click here to view a video of the program, or click here for excerpts from Dr. Chameides’s story on “Connecticut Remembers the Holocaust,” a virtual exhibition presented by Voices of Hope, the Holocaust Education Resource and Outreach Center, the Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Hartford, and the UConn Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life. 

Above: Leon Chameides, M.D. Image courtesy of Jewish Historical Society of Greater Hartford.