Memories of the Holocaust are fading and with them, the safeguard against repeating history’s mistakes. One Baltimore-area company is doing something about the disappearing collective memory of the Holocaust by taking employees and their families as well clients, attorneys and other people with whom they work to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington, D.C.
“I come (sic) along this information from CNN, that 37 percent of all people don’t know what the Holocaust is, so I was very upset and decided that I had to do something,” said Semyon Friedman, owner of Maryland Healthcare Clinics and the one who decided to take employees, clients and more to USHMM. “I think going forward that I did the right thing because many people were so…upset or impressed [by] what was done by Germany to those people.”
Both Semyon and his wife, Janna Friedman are survivors of the Holocaust. Semyon was just six years old when he and his family fled from their home in Ukraine to relative safety in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.
Semyon and Janna arrived in the United States in 1979 from the Soviet Union along with their daughter, Julia Friedman Peremel. Semyon soon established Maryland Healthcare Clinics.
Semyon and Peremel both felt that the company was “a kind of cross section of America,” Peremel said, and included people of many backgrounds and religions.
Such businesses can play a role in educating people who know little or nothing about the Holocaust.
“There’s a whole population that’s missed [going to USHMM] because they aren’t part of any group. That’s why I think businesses, who have such a cross section of employees and their families, can really be successful in educating all sorts of people who wouldn’t normally go to the museum,” Peremel said.
Michael Clark, of Colombia, has worked at Maryland Healthcare Clinics for 15 years and was one of the employees to go on the inaugural USHMM trip, accompanied by his wife.
“I’d just like to say that my wife and I, it just touched our hearts going there and seeing what happened to regular people,” Clark said. “Inside the museum they had a wall full of photographs of Jewish people before they were taken into the trains to go towards the gas chambers. These were just regular folks, regular families like you and me. And then we would see different people after they have been in the camps, and not necessarily the same people, but these people looked so worn. You saw the starvation in their bodies. I couldn’t believe that these regular people were so denigrated and it left a scar on my heart, I guess, to just to see that humans could do that to one another.”
Nigora Akhmedova, of Odenton, another Maryland Healthcare Clinics employee who’s been with the company for 14 years, said that, while she knew about the Holocaust in broad strokes, “the museum gave me a human face to the struggles that before felt far removed and I was kind of shocked to confront the artifacts of the real human costs of this atrocity.”
Friedman has plans to continue bringing groups of employees, clients and more to the museum. Peremel said, “The next step would be to offer this to the attorneys [we work with] and their staff and their families.”
Clark spoke of his and his wife’s experience and said, “This was a life changing event for both of us. And I think that everybody should go to the Holocaust museum and just to have a better, fuller understanding what went on. I think most people don’t have a clue what went on there. I know I didn’t.”