For our Tuesday chapel time and Holocaust Remembrance Chapel, the Saint Mary's community was privileged to hear from Ms. Bonnie Hauser in Pittman Auditorium, Jan. 22, 2019, as she shared the gripping story of her late mother, Rebecca Yomtov Hauser, a Holocaust survivor from a Romaniote Jewish community in Greece, who was captured and taken to Auschwitz and, later, the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
Bonnie Hauser is the daughter of Rebecca Hauser, a Holocaust survivor from Ioannina, Greece. In 1944, Rebecca and her family and the entire Jewish community of Ioannina were deported to Auschwitz. She was later transferred to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp complex. As Allied and Soviet forces advanced into Germany in late 1944 and early 1945, Bergen-Belsen became a collection camp for thousands of Jewish prisoners evacuated from camps closer to the front. The arrival of thousands of new prisoners, many of them survivors of forced evacuations on foot, overwhelmed the meager resources of the camp. British forces liberated the camp in April 1945. Rebecca was the only survivor from her immediate family.
Rebecca and Bonnie co-presented for years through the Chapel Hill-Durham Holocaust Speakers Bureau, where they shared Rebecca's story with thousands of students, parents, and teachers. Bonnie now carries on this important work on her late mother's behalf.
Rebecca came to the United States in 1947, where she met her husband, married and raised a family. She lived in New York, Florida, Chapel Hill, and Carrboro. She worked as an assistant designer and sample maker. At Tyler House of Chapel Hill, she made elegant dresses and gowns fit perfectly. She loved gardens, the beach, and anything family.
In recent years, Rebecca became known through her work with the Chapel Hill-Durham Holocaust Speakers Bureau. Through this work, Rebecca shared her personal experience with thousands of students, teachers, and parents. Amidst the horrors of the Holocaust, she reminded young people to love America, focus on the positives, and to take responsibility for creating a more just world.
Rebecca died at the age of 95 and "is most remembered for her joy of spirit and her ability to move past difficulties to find laughter and love."
Bonnie also shared lunch and further discussion with the Saint Mary's vestry in the Tyler Room in Chan-Poyner Hall. She encouraged the students to ask questions and speak up where we see injustice instead of remaining silent.
Rebecca's memoir, My Simple Life in Greece...Destroyed by the Holocaust, is available through Lulu publishing.
Learn more about Rebecca's story through her You Tube videos.
Rebecca Yomtov Hauser