SURVIVING THE HOLOCAUST THE PAGE FAMILY
INTRODUCTION IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE: VINCENT J. RUSSO KIM BERK
MONSIGNOR DONALD BERKMAN DANTE RUSSO ERIC PAGE HEDY PAGE JOAN PAGE KENNETH PAGE MONSIGNOR JAMES McNAMARA
ALL STAR REPORTERS, INC. 15 Verbena Avenue Floral Park, New York 11001 (800) 329-9222
1 MR. RUSSO: Welcome everyone to Family
2 Comes First, Ifm Vincent J. Russo
3 MS. BERK: Ifm Kim Berk. Thank you for
4 joining us today.
5 The Holocaust was among the darkest of
6 hours in our history and as school children
7 everybody learns the dates and the facts about
8 the Holocaust, but we may not have had the
9 opportunity to put real faces and voices to the
11 Vincent, you are so fortunate to know two
12 Holocaust survivors who just happen to be
13 amazing people at the same time.
14 MR. RUSSO: Eric and Hedy Page are two
15 individuals whose lives were changed forever by
16 Hitler!s Nazi Germany.
17 They’re very dear friends of mine, and I am
18 sure they will touch you in ways that you
19 have never been touched before.
20 Before we meet the Page family we have
21 the pleasure of being joined in our resource
22 center by two men who had been involved in
23 remembering the Holocaust in their own special
25 It is a privilege to welcome Monsignor
1 Donald Beckmann who is a Pastor at St. Ignatius
2 Martyr Church in Long Beach, where we live, as
3 well as the Director of Ecumenical and
4 Interreligious Affairs for the Diocese of
5 Rockville Center. He was a founding member
6 of the Board of Directors of the Holocaust
7 Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County.
8 Welcome, Monsignor.
9 MONSIGNOR BECKMANN: Thank you. It’s good to
10 be here.
11 MR. RUSSO: And in keeping with the theme of
12 family our second guest is my son, Dante Russo.
13 Dante wrote a musical entitled The City of
14 Silence which premiered at the Boston Center for
15 the Arts in 2003. The musical focused on how
16 families, especially children, were impacted by
17 the Holocaust.
18 MS. BERK: Monsignor Beckmann, how did you
19 get involved with the Holocaust Memorial and
20 Tolerance Center of Nassau County?
21 MONSIGNOR BECKMANN: Those of us who are active
22 and involved Christians must be very involved in
23 working against anti-semitism and certainly in
24 remembering the Holocaust.
25 MR. RUSSO: The Holocaust Memorial is in Glen
2 MONSIGNOR BECKMANN: It’s in Glen Cove. It
3 was founded in part through the efforts of
4 Bishop McGann and Rabbi Myron Fenster, who were
5 the two original founders. They put the board
6 together and the center has been growing
7 and developing in part with help from the county,
8 as well.
9 MR. RUSSO: Dante, you wrote a musical.
10 DANTE RUSSO: Yes.
11 MR. RUSSO: The City of Silence. Tell us
12 about the story.
13 DANTE RUSSO: The City of Silence is a
14 fully sung-through musical and it takes
15 place during World War II Nazi Germany. It
16 centers around a family, a mother named Paulina,
17 who live in Dresden Germany and then through
18 many twists and turns, the family actually end
19 up in a concentration camp in Act II.
20 The concentration camp does not have a name
21 to represent all the different concentration camps
22 as well as therefs a male authority figure
23 in the show who represents all the Nazis.
24 MS. BERK: I know you went to Holy Trinity
25 High School, and you actually as a sophomore, I
1 believe, your second year there wrote a one act
2 play that has become this musical now.
3 Where does a sophomore in high school get the
4 idea to write such an ambitious musical about
5 such a topic that most kids would be, I don’t
6 want anything to do with that and a
7 musical, as well.
8 DANTE RUSSO: A lot of reading, a lot of
9 research online, but also when I research projects
10 I love to get immersed in the topic and so I did
11 a lot of traveling. I visited many Holocaust
12 memorials and museums. I went up to Boston to the
13 Holocaust Memorial there. I visited the
14 Holocaust museum in DC and in London. I visited
15 the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam and my biggest
16 trip which was life changing was visiting
17 Auschwitz in Poland.
18 MS. BERK: What was that like?
19 DANTE RUSSO: It was just incredible to walk
20 the grounds and to physically be where, you know —
21 Like you see Schindler’s List and, you know, itfs
22 very, very cinematic to actually be there.
23 MS. BERK: That!s where people walked.
24 DANTE RUSSO: Itfs very humbling, and it was
25 an incredible experience that I’ll never forget.
1 MS. BERK: I bet.
2 MR. RUSSO: Hedy and Eric Page shared with us
3 that he last saw his mother behind a fence in a
4 concentration camp, a barbed wire fence, and you
5 have a scene in your show and Hedy and Eric went
6 up to Boston to see the musical. Hedy later told
7 me it was the first time he ever cried about
8 the Holocaust. It brought back that memory of
9 the last time he saw his mother.
10 Monsignor, the message that we never be
11 silenced; how do we ensure that future
12 generations will never forget?
13 MONSIGNOR BECKMANN: I think there are two
14 aspects to that. One is to recognize the
15 uniqueness of the Shoah. Often we use
16 the Hebrew name, the Holocaust, precisely to
17 help announce that uniqueness because for all of
18 the other genocides, for all of the other attacks
19 on people, the hatred in the world, there was
20 something very desperately unique about the
21 Shoah in that the entire mechanism of a state
22 was used to wipe out one complete population
23 from that state so there’s something unique about
24 that but at the same time and this is one of
25 the messages of the Holocaust Tolerance Center,
1 we can learn from that about all forms of
2 hatred, all forms of even just dislike of
3 people because of their race, their ethnic
4 background, their religion or whatever.
5 MS. BERK: You’ll see a lot of pictures
6 throughout this particular show from the museum
7 and a picture does tell a thousand words so
8 what does having this wonderful center here on
9 Long Island mean for us?
10 MONSIGNOR BECKMANN: I think several things.
11 I think one exactly as you say, it presents a
12 place where people can go, individuals can go,
13 school groups can go, study groups of adults can
14 go to learn, not only to see the pictures which
15 as you say are very powerful.
16 MS. BERK: Compelling very much so.
17 MONSIGNOR BECKMANN: But sometimes I think
18 even more important the opportunity of
19 meeting survivors, of being able to speak with
20 people who went through it and who did
21 psychologically and religiously as well as
22 physically survive it.
23 I think for many of them, from what I hear
24 them say, it gives them the opportunity of
25 knowing that their experience as horrific as it was
1 still could lead to something positive if they
2 are able to get their story across, if people
3 remember it, if people learn from it.
4 MR. RUSSO: Well, thank you so much for
5 joining us today, Monsignor Donald Beckmann, my
6 son, Dante Russo, in sharing your perspective on
7 the Holocaust and how to remember and honor
8 the people who were lost.
9 We are going to take a break, but when we
10 come back, we will sit down with the Page family
11 and hear their stories of surviving the
12 Holocaust, raising a family here in the
13 United States and never losing their
14 unwavering spirit.
15 Stay with us. We’ll be right back.
16 ERIC PAGE: So when the war started in
17 June 1941, we were — our town was in flames
18 because the Germans were shooting from one end
19 and the Russians were shooting from the other
20 one, from the west the Germans, from the east the
21 Russians. We have to flee because our town was
22 completely in flames.
23 There were four of us; myself, my mother, my
24 aunt and my uncle. My aunt was sickly at that
25 time. We think she had cancer.
1 The horse and wagons were with the family and
2 their stuff all loaded into that wagon. They
3 saw us. They knew us. They stopped. They said
4 we can!t take all of you, but we’ll take the
5 sick one. That was the last time we saw my aunt.
6 We were told not to go any further but stay in
7 the larger city because of the small towns, the
8 Jews were picked up or surrounded there and killed
9 right there, and there was quite a bit of mass
10 killing going on in the small towns. So we
11 stayed there and after about two or three weeks of
12 German occupation, they divided the City into a
13 Jewish quarter, and they called it the ghetto, and
14 we stayed there close to three years. By the time
15 we left from the ghetto, I was 18.
16 From the ghetto they transferred us to a
17 concentration camp called Stutthof.
18 It!s like on the Polish border, and in that
19 camp the men were separated from the women,
20 and that’s the last place I saw my mother
21 alive. From there, we were transported to
22 the Hull.
23 The food was very, very poor. We used to
24 get about a slice or so of bread in the
25 morning. There was a cup of coffee.
1 For dinner you usually got another piece
2 of bread and another soup. That soup might have
3 had two potatoes in it and that was our food.
4 We knew what was going on. I mean especially
5 when they were still in Dachau or in Stutthof
6 The crematorium ovens were working, and we
7 knew exactly what was going on.
8 The important thing really, that really made
9 me survive was hate because I hated so
10 strongly because I saw what was happening.
11 Looking at the people, you know, in the camp
12 you knew today who is going to die by tomorrow.
13 Just the way they acted, just the way they were
15 As the army was progressing closer to
16 Dachau, they took us from the labor camp into
17 Dachau for one night and then we were put on
18 the march. It was called the death march. We
19 marched for four or five days with hardly any
20 food. Whoever fell behind, there were guard
21 dogs. If you couldn’t make it, even with the
22 guard dogs, most of them were just dying there
23 either shot or what have you.
24 We walked one more day. They stopped at
25 that evening. A group of us were close to an
1 empty barn so that group went into the barn.
2 The rest slept outside because only so many
3 people could get in there. We were lucky to
4 get in.
5 The next morning we woke up, and there were
6 no more guards, and we looked out, walked
7 out, looked around, no guards.
8 That was the first day of liberation.
9 HEDY PAGE: We heard the Chancellor speaking
10 on the radio, and he said long live Austria. I
11 don’t remember his exact words and then there
12 was music. My parents were very quiet and
13 after that things changed.
14 Children know things. They don’t have to
15 be told things, but they feel the atmosphere
16 changing. I wasn’t allowed to go near the
17 window and the world felt dark.
18 There was screaming in the streets and
19 people broke into our house, and I remember
20 that there were pounding on our door, and my
21 mother quickly put my brother and me into a
22 closet. I remember the feeling of sitting on
23 thick pillows because they had been stored
24 there and the hammering outside and then they
25 broke through the door. They asked for my
1 father, and we didn’t hear any –we heard
2 noise, but my brother and I were in the closet.
3 What did happen during that night was the
4 neighbors from across the street, there
5 were three girls or two girls, young women, and
6 they had a boyfriend who was in the SS, in the
7 Storm Troopers or the army, one of those which
8 had the uniforms, and they told them to rescue
9 my father. He came to the door. He said to
10 my mother, what does your husband look like.
11 She said, he’s short, he has red hair and gave
12 his name, Jacob Kellman. He ran off. He ran
13 through the streets looking for groups of men
14 being gathered and he asked for Jacob Kellman
15 and got my father and he walked through the
16 streets with him through the night until he
17 could get him safely into a friend’s apartment,
18 and I would like to tell that — And my father
19 came home early that morning. I would like to
20 tell this because there were these amazing
21 people who risked their lives for people they
22 didn’t know.
23 I remember at that time the word Jude which
24 meant Jew in German was very terrifying to me
25 because it had been used with such venom and
1 when she said the Israelite children, it sort
2 of gave me such a knowledge of what words can do,
3 the “N” word in America, and I always felt
4 that we don!t know people and then we can hurt
5 them and that was really what I learned from
6 Eric because when people say to him how could
7 people do to others what they did to the Jews
8 or to others, he always says itfs very easy.
9 All you have to do is to consider them subhuman.
10 All you have to do is to decide that you don’t
11 know them, that they are not like you.
12 MR. RUSSO: We are now joined by my good
13 friends, Eric and Hedy Page, as well as
14 their daughter Joanie. Thank you so much for
15 being here today.
16 JOAN PAGE: Thank you.
17 HEDY PAGE: Thank you.
18 MR. RUSSO: And also joining us your son,
19 Kenny, remotely.
20 How are you doing, Ken?
21 KENNY PAGE: Ifm well. Thanks for having
22 me on.
23 MR. RUSSO: Our pleasure.
24 MS. BERK: The voice, the disembodied voice. 25 MR. RUSSO: That’s right.
1 MS. BERK: Itf s wonderful.
2 MR. RUSSO: I just have to start with
3 thanking you for sharing your story of surviving
4 the Holocaust.
5 It!s just unbelievable to me that it could
6 ever happen and it did happen, and it!s so
7 incredibly sad that it happened.
8 I’m asking you to share with us, how did
9 you move forward?
10 Eric, you shared the day of liberation.
11 You had no family, no possessions.
12 Where did you go?
13 ERIC PAGE: We had some far-off relative
14 in the United States, and they sent us tickets
15 to come here. We ended up in New York and from
16 there we went to Great Neck.
17 MR. RUSSO: Hedy, I guess the question for
18 you; your trip to the states was very different,
19 your family fleeing and you ending up in Panama.
20 HEDY PAGE: Right, right.
21 MR. RUSSO: Tell us about that.
22 HEDY PAGE: My father — when Hitler came in
23 March into Vienna, and my father immediately
24 began to write all over the world, anybody we
25 knew, if they could send a Visa because he knew
1 what was coming. The threats had been there, but
2 so many people were not paying attention to them.
3 He went from embassy to embassy, from office
4 to office, and around my birthday in August, we got
5 a Visa from Panama, and I firmly believe that we
6 were saved by Panama.
7 JOAN PAGE: And by your uncle.
8 HEDY PAGE: And by my uncle who lived there,
10 MS. BERK: Now, how did you two meet?
11 First of all, Hedy, you have a smile that
12 lights up a room. When you smile, you are just a.
13 wonderful, beautiful person, but how did you
14 meet? You came from two different stories.
15 You survived the same kind of thing.
16 How did you meet each other?
17 HEDY PAGE: We both didn’t fall in love
18 with America. We knew we wanted to leave. We
19 went from one segregation to another
20 segregation when we saw what was happening to
21 people of color here, we had gone south and seen
22 that world, and it colored our picture of the
23 United States. There was no Martin Luther King.
24 There was no civil liberties. There was nothing.
25 We decided we wanted to go to Israel.
1 We met at a camp which taught us how to work in a
2 commune, in a kibbutz. I learned to clean
3 toilets. He learned to build buildings and then
4 very slowly we fell in love with America. We
5 never did go to Israel.
6 MR. RUSSO: How about each other?
7 HEDY PAGE: That happened very
8 rapidly. We met in the summer camp in
9 1948. We were married the last day of !48.
10 MR. RUSSO: This love story. Joanie and
11 Kenny, I understand your father didn’t talk
12 much about the Holocaust actually until
13 fairly recently.
14 Did you know that your parents were
15 Holocaust survivors when you were growing up?
16 Joanie, do you want to go first —
17 JOAN PAGE: Sure. I think I knew it from the
18 moment I knew anything. The Holocaust has been
19 part of my growing up. It was part of my
20 understanding of the world I think from my earliest
21 years because it was always like a dark cloud
22 off to the corner. It shaped my view of the
23 world. It shapes my view of who people are and
24 what people are capable of. It shapes the work
25 that I do. So I don’t think there ever was a time
1 I didn’t know about it, and I think it not being
2 spoken about maybe made it bigger in my mind,
3 but it showed up sideways in various ways.
4 MR. RUSSO: Sure. Kenny, what’s that like for
5 you knowing your parents were survivors?
6 KENNETH PAGE: I remember being in the car with
7 my dad when he would tell little bits of stories
8 about the Holocaust, and I remember that what I
9 went through was that I felt like I needed to
10 help him, like I needed to be a really good son
11 and know how to listen and talk, and I felt
12 profoundly inadequate to that task because I
13 just felt a pit of fear and darkness that was so
14 big and I felt like then I can’t be there for him.
15 I didn’t know how to be around dad.
16 I just want to share one thing that my dad
17 said to me that was amazing and will never leave
18 me because I said to him, I said, I don’t know if
19 I could have been as brave as you. I don’t know
20 if I would have had what it takes or if I have what
21 it takes to have been able to survive this like you
22 did. He said to me, he said, you can’t ask
23 yourself that question. You could never know until
24 you are there so don’t ask yourself that question
25 because it’s something you would never know
1 until it happens and God forbid it should ever
2 happen to you but that was so empowering to think
3 that I could stop asking myself that question and
4 that was just one of the many gifts from my dad.
5 MR. RUSSO: An inspiration, for sure.
6 MS. BERK: Let you off the hook finally.
7 KENNETH PAGE: Yeah.
8 MS. BERK: Now, Eric, I know that in the
9 last few years you actually have gone back to find
10 some of your family members to see if people are
11 still, you know, if they have survived and what
12 happened to them? What happened there? What
13 did you discover?
14 ERIC PAGE: We tried to go back. We did go
15 back. We went to — You see my mother had two
16 sisters who lived in Germany but being a
17 child you are not so much interested in
18 relatives who live far away so I really had
19 no contact with them. My mother used to
20 correspond with them, but I didn’t know — I
21 didn’t know their married name so I didn’t know
22 whom they married or where they exactly — where
23 they lived so we tried going back and tried to
24 trace them which was just about impossible.
25 MS. BERK: Now, Hedy, I know that you have
1 beautiful artwork hanging in New York City
2 museums. Out of all of this you became a
3 painter. How does that happen? Is that what you
4 need to do? Is that what comes out of you,
5 inside of you? Why painting?
6 HEDY PAGE: Drawing was such a weapon for me
7 because I had a teacher who believed everybody
8 could draw, that was first, second, third grade in
9 Vienna. I just always tended to want to draw
10 people, and once Ken, who!s a therapist, he did
11 a session with me when I was already an adult
12 and after Ifve been painting for years, and he
13 said, why do you only do people, and I realized
14 for the first time that I thought that if I
15 showed that people really exist, that they1re
16 each individuals, I only do real people,
17 then prejudice would have to disappear if
18 people could see real people so I was always
19 drawing real people, but I had not known why
20 until then.
21 MR. RUSSO: Sure. I just want to share with
22 our audience Annafs Legacy The Beauty of our
23 Special Children, your drawings, Hedy, of
24 children with disabilities, and this book being
25 in honor of your mother, Anna, so important
1 creating that awareness that over six million
2 Jews were murdered, but there were also children
3 with disabilities also that were lost in
4 the Holocaust so it’s quite an important book
5 that’s been published by our good friend, our
6 New York State Assemblyman, Harvey Weisenberg.
7 We thank you for this, the two of you.
8 And I just want to close with a conversation I
9 had with Eric because in the video Eric you made
10 a strong statement that it was hate that allowed
11 you to get through the day, that you hated what was
12 happening. I just want to share that conversation
13 with our audience because it’s so important to
14 all of us as a society.
15 ERIC PAGE: We had a neighbor next door to
16 us. We became very friendly. We went to their
17 house and he said, Eric, how do you really
18 feel about being in my home because you knew
19 my background, and I did. He was on a U-boat
20 during the war and here’s what I told him. I
21 said, look, if you would have done something to me
22 or anybody around me that I’ve seen, you wouldn’t
23 be alive now. I said but since I don’t, if I
24 discriminate to people just because of a
25 nationality or a color, I would be just as low
1 as they were. And I said nobody would get me
2 down to that level.
3 MR. RUSSO: Well, I just want to thank you all
4 for being here today, sharing your stories, and
5 Joanie and Kenny, you are just very lucky to
6 have your parents.
7 JOAN PAGE: True.
8 MS. BERK: Absolutely.
9 HEDY PAGE: And we}re so lucky to have them.
10 MS. BERK: Let’s now go to Monsignor
11 McNamara for a spiritual reflection.
12 MONSIGNOR McNAMARA: There have been reports
13 and even high profile cases of people who
14 deny that the Holocaust ever even happened.
15 The testimony of Eric and Hedy put
16 such nonsense to rest. Whatever motivation
17 people may have to deny the Holocaust, one
18 benign interpretation is to say that they
19 simply cannot take in all the evil involved.
20 I was deeply moved by the calm and objective
21 way that Eric and Hedy recount their
22 experiences. Somehow they found a way to live
23 with the horror that had formed their lives.
24 Even though Eric said he survived through hatred,
25 he has lived a good life all of these years
1 despite such atrocities early on.
2 Both Eric and Hedy are to be admired for
3 their perseverance and their strength. Their
4 testimony is also a challenge to all of us to
5 fight for justice especially in places like
6 Darfur in our world today.
7 Compassion can easily be replaced by
8 numbness in the face of so much suffering.
9 Outrage and injustice can quickly degenerate into
10 self-defeating capitulation in the face of
11 such evil.
12 Let us never deny the horror and the evil of
13 the Holocaust and let us be on fire for justice
14 and the dignity of all human beings so that
15 such evil will never happen again.
16 MS. BERK: If you would like to learn more
17 about Anna’s Legacy, The Beauty of Our Special
18 Children, the book by Hedy and Eric Page,
19 made possible by a grant from Assemblyman Harvey
20 Weisenberg, you can visit
22 Have a fantastic day, Vincent.
23 MR. RUSSO: Thank you, Kim and have a great
24 day, as well.
25 Thank you all for joining us and
1 remember family truly does come first.