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4/26/2009: One by One: Transforming the Legacies of Conflict, War, and Genocide Through Dialogue

by Bridget Saltonstall

On Sunday, April 26, at 7:30 p.m. in the Concord Town House, the Concord Board of Selectmen will present the 29th annual Holocaust memorial Observance. This year’s speakers will be Dr. Martina Emme, daughter and granddaughter of Nazi believers and bystanders, and Rosalie Gerut, daughter of Holocaust survivors. They will describe their efforts to bring together people polarized by war and genocide with transformative dialogue and through One by One, Inc., a non-profit organization of Holocaust survivors and descendents, perpetrators, bystanders, resisters, and their descendents.

Rosalie Gerut is the daughter of Holocaust survivors from Vilne, Lithuania, and Lodz, poland. martina Emme was born into a family of Nazis. Her grandfather served in the German Wehrmacht and shared the anti-Semitic convictions of his colleagues. Her father joined the Hitler youth.

During the Observance, Rosalie and martina will relate their personal family histories, some of the moving stories from One by One dialogue groups and members’ work in the fields of art, music, writing, human rights, memory, and civil disobedience.

The women met in 1993 with a group of others of similar backgrounds. The meeting was intensely moving and from it sprang a vision to overcome the suffering of survivors and the pain of those on the other side who wanted to regain their humanity. Along with colleague Wilma Busse, daughter of a Catholic Holocaust survivor, they designed a method of bringing together people polarized by war and genocide for authentic and transformative dialogue.

The Dialogue Group model is based on tshuvah, on the philosophies of Holocaust survivors primo Levi and Victor Frankl, as well as on the psychology of group dynamics and trauma. The dialogue process begins to alleviate the burdens of a person’s traumatic past and interrupt the intergenerational transmission of trauma, prejudice, and group hatred. The presence of participants from both sides is essential to the group’s success.

One by One was founded by these same women and invites a multi-generational membership to heal together by telling their stories. Although rooted in the Holocaust, the work now extends to other polarized groups. Together the members of One by One seek to bear witness to the realities of war and genocide from diverse perspectives and to work for a more peaceful world. The organization also offers educational programs, publications, art work, and a speakers bureau, and other resources that promote interpersonal peacemaking and help prevent the transmission of trauma, fear, prejudice, racism and violence.

The Observance is coordinated by the Concord-Carlisle Human Rights Council. It is suitable for middle school children and up and is free & open to the public.

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