On Saturday October 5, Sound Impact had the pleasure of presenting a performance of “Haim” by Polina Nazaykinskaya at the Northern Virginia Community College Alexandria Campus. The Alexandria Symphony Orchestra was playing a concert right next door in Schlesinger Hall so our crowd was small and intimate. Nevertheless, the content of what was delivered was poignant and hit right to the core. Before “Haim” was performed, the audience had the chance to listen firsthand to the experiences of David Arben and Dr. Jack Terry as Holocaust Survivors. Elizabeth Jackson hosted this Q & A session, and her introductory speech was so moving, there was not a dry eye in the room after she finished.
We wanted to share Elizabeth’s words.
by Elizabeth Jackson
I am honored to introduce to you my two friends, David Arben and Dr. Jack Terry. They are individuals who share a common bond… they share a past. Tragically, they are both the only members of their immediate families to have survived the Holocaust. In a recorded log from the Flossenburg concentration camp, they are separated by only two numbers. Jack, number 14,086, and David, number 14,088. They are dear close friends, and it’s my privilege to tell you just a small bit about their unbelievable lives.
David Arben was born in Warsaw, Poland and was only 12 years old when the Second World War broke out. It was not long after Poland was invaded by the Germans that his native Warsaw was cordoned off and became a ghetto. All of the Jewish people that lived outside the ghetto were forced to move in and give up their residences. The community became strangled, food was very difficult to come by, and conditions worsened. After a while the selection process to be sent to concentration camps began.
In all, David was sent to 6 different concentration camps built by the Nazis in both Germany and Poland. Nine months prior to the liberation, both Jack and David were sent to Flossenburg in Germany. And on April 23, 1945, when David was 17 years old and Jack was 15 years old, they were liberated by American forces.
After liberation, David slowly came back to his love of music and started to study the violin again in Munich. He studied at the Mozarteum in Salzburg before continuing on at the Geneva Conservatory of Music in Switzerland. Later, he would finish his studies at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia where he studied under Efrem Zimbalist. He went on to become a member of the Detroit Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra, where he made his solo debut playing the Mendelssohn violin concerto, and the Philadelphia Orchestra, where he retired as associate concertmaster.
Dr. Jack Terry was born in Belzyce, Poland, and was just 9 years old when German troops invaded their small village. All of Jack’s family and much of his village were murdered. After this, Jack was sent to various concentration camps in Poland and Germany, where as a young boy he struggled to survive the terrible conditions of camp life. In the spring of 1945, the Americans were closing in and the SS evacuated the camp and sent the prisoners on what would be later be known as the death march. Jack’s life was saved because another prisoner, a camp clerk, helped him hide in a tunnel underneath the ground, where he very uncomfortably laid for days, not uttering a sound, on top of hot pipes in the dark with no food or water. After the liberation, Jack was befriended by American troops and received from them a protection and affection he had not experienced in years. An American colonel by the name of Louis Leland took him to the United States via France and he arrived on US soil two days after his 16th birthday in March of 1946. Five years after his liberation, he graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School and from the Colorado School of Mines in 1954 as a geologist on an ROTC scholarship. He also served in the Army Engineer Intelligence Center in Germany. After his service, Jack returned to the US to attend medical school and earned his doctorate in 1964. He then turned his attention to psychoanalysis at the New York Psychoanalytic Institute to help other Holocaust survivors.
On a personal note, I recently read Jack’s memoir and through his eyes I got a small glimpse into what concentration camp conditions were like. The starvation, the brutality, the senseless beatings, the routine and all too horrific murders, the all-consuming fear, the animalistic instinct for survival… this was the daily reality for the prisoners. Of the 6 million European Jewish lives lost (not to mention the other 60-80 million+ who also perished during WWII), each death carries an equally weighted backstory. It tells of a life that was viciously taken, a family that mourned, a community and countless lives that were shattered. But I was particularly struck by one such story. During a selection process, Jack’s older sister did not want to be separated from their mother. Because of this, the SS shot and killed her in front of their mother, before killing his mother, too. In his book, I read about so many other harrowing stories. I read of the revolving door of commandants, each one as nightmarish as the last. The horrors that were witnessed cannot be comprehended. And, as David has said to me before, they SHOULDN’T be comprehended. That it is much too much, too awful, too gruesome, too painful, to truly comprehend. But for these two, they do know. And what I know about them is that they are quite simply, two ordinary men, who lived extraordinary lives, who came out on the other side with a terribly important story to tell. What exactly their story is, I don’t know. Their stories are unique and individual to each of them. I just know that they are incredible human beings. Their hearts are full of kindness, generosity, gentleness and strength. When I’m in their presence, I have a strong feeling of peace, of love, and of joy. After going through what they went through, to be able to emanate the true beauty of life, is nothing short of remarkable.
Dr. Jack Terry and David Arben
Q & A session with David Arben and Dr. Jack Terry, hosted by Elizabeth Jackson
Sound Impact team with David Arben and Dr. Jack Terry
Left to right: Konstantin Soukhovetski, Danielle Cho, Rebecca Jackson, David Arben, Dr. Jack Terry, Elizabeth Jackson, Ashley William Smith, Jae Young Cosmos Lee, Tiffany Richardson