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Helen and Sol Krawitz Holocaust Memorial Education Center

Shimon and Sara Birnbaum Jewish Community Center

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Descendant Profile








    Caryn Horowitz is the granddaughter of Margit Feldman. She graduated in 2010 from Tufts University, where she was also the managing editor of The Tufts Daily newspaper. Caryn spends her time between the East and West coast working for Google.



    On My Grandmother's Passing

    My warmest memories of my grandmother all involve the kitchen. She kept the memory of her family alive and showed her love for her friends and community through her cooking.

    CARYN HOROWITZ AUDIO-INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT (unedited) by the late Harry Hillard

    November 19, 2016


    Question: We want you to start by asking you about, you’re feelings about, what it means to you, the idea of continuing the tradition. [indistinguishable]

    Answer: I was a history major, actually, so I spent so much time looking back. And whenever I was writing a paper or in a seminar, my question was always, “What about these people now?” Where did they go now and I think that you can't talk about any atrocity that's happened previously without thinking about the descendants of those people, and the story of the day is to tell the stories, because their blood is our blood, and as long as that's there, then the stories you tell need to continue and need to survive.


    Question: Here’s something more personal, that’s probably true of a lot of people of the Jewish faith, but how is that for you, with a grandmother who was directly connected? How different is that?

    Answer: It gives everything a much more emotional… twinge? And a personal connection to a story of any genocide that you read- not just the Holocaust, but across the entire world. Any current event that’s going on- whether it’s something in Sudan, whether it’s everything that just has been happening in Europe again, recently, there’s part of me that just gets so emotional thinking about it because I know that this woman who raised me probably felt the same way that those people feel right now. And it makes it harder to digest these stories, knowing that I feel the way those peoples’ grandchildren do. Because I’m that grandchild. 


    Question: We’re going to do the same question but I ask you to talk about your grandmother, and your response was very good but they’re not going to hear my questions as you now, so you have to start the question with “the fact that my grandmother was a survivor.” You know, just bring that into your whole feeling about how it meant to you then. [Indistinguishable].  How do you feel as a grandchild of a Holocaust survivor?

     Answer: That’s a slightly different question. Yeah, okay… Because my grandmother was a Holocaust survivor, I was always curious growing up, to know what happened. Because by the time I was born, she had already been getting lectures and speaking, so that public part and that commitment to education was already there when I came into the picture. So, that's the only way that I knew her was as this strong outspoken public figure and it made me feel like she had nothing to be ashamed of, she had nothing to hide. There was no reason that her story shouldn't be told to as many people that could hear them, and for me, it's done nothing but make me proud to be her granddaughter and make me feel like those story things to continue on for as long as possible so that people can feel as proud and as connected as I did growing up.


    Question: How do you feel about the people you work with? The people your age? Do you bring it up?

    Answer: I talk about my grandmother all the time. Mostly in the context of my grandmother, who was such an amazing woman, and then when I tell people on top of it that she’s a Holocaust survivor and she’s an educator and she’s written a book and that just makes my friends go: “Woah! This woman that I was already in love with, ‘cuz she seems like such a cool Grandmother, on top of it, is really trying to change a lot of people’s lives with the education work that she’s doing.


    Question: Tell me why she was a cool grandma. Forget the other stuff, tell me why she was a cool grandma.

    Answer: Every day, when I would come home from the school my grandmother was there with… with a snack in hand, with a recipe for us to share together. She always wanted to make sure that I was happy, and taken care of. We would go to the movies together, we would go shopping together, just anything and everything I wanted: she was so loving and open about everything and I always just felt safe with her growing up.


    Question: Now you said you already knew what her history was because you said she had spoken probably of it. When you were with her doing normal stuff, did every once and awhile in your mind creep the question- something on her behavior? Did it just enter your mind that at any point, even when you were having normal good times?

    Answer: I think sometimes the stories entered into my everyday life. Because I was always curious about what those everyday experiences were like for her as a child, so for me it wasn't so much the story is of the actual time in the camps that came up, but the times when she was my age and when she was eight and living in Hungary on a farm with her family. What would have that been like growing up in this totally different time? And then when I became a teenager and got closer in age to the age that she was when she was sent to the camps, it was always there for me to think about: if I had been her and I'm sitting here, 16, in high school going about my everyday life and I would have had my entire family taken away from me, what would I have done? How could I have survived that? And I never had a good answer to that question but it was present.               


    [end of take one]


    Question: Explain to us how, when you were a child, explain to us how why and how you were at your grandmother’s so often. What about that.

    Answer:  Yeah so I lived with my grandmother when I- Lemme start that again. I started living with my grandmother from when I was three until I was 12, so she was like a second mother to me. I called her “Mama” and that's actually how my friends know her as, as “Mama” and at that time she was already giving lectures and in very much involved with genocide education. And that was an everyday part of my life growing up, and when I was in third grade she came and spoke to my school, when I was in 5th grade and we were reading books about the Holocaust. I would go home and talk to her about it. So we had this very open dialogue about her experiences.


    Question: Let’s talk about your willingness to talk with your grandmother so young. What do you think that did for her?

    Answer: I think that I asked her sometimes difficult questions, every once in a while. We would be having a conversation and she would have to get up and leave the room. I think it's probably very different for someone when it’s not just your child, but your grandchild- this second generation of your blood and a lot of ways is asking very personal questions of you. She has this one story that she actually opens a lot of her speeches with, about how when I was a kid and she'd to give me a bath I used to take the washcloth and try to scrub her tattoo, because I thought it was a speck of dirt or a bruise or something that I wanted to get off of her. And she says that that was one of the most emotional experiences that she went to went through, because here was this baby that saw that there was something different and wanted to know more about it.


    Question: When you were eight? Ten? How long did you live with your grandparents? Until you were 11?

    Answer: Until I was eleven, yeah.


    Question: So you’d have friends over? Eight-year olds, Nine-year-olds, ten?

    Answer: Yeah I’d have friends over all the time, I’d have birthday parties, sleepovers, everything that a normal, suburban, elementary school kid would. Yeah.


    Question: And did your young friends know anything about the Holocaust or anything like that?

    Answer: I think so, and I think partly my grandmother is to thank- that my friends knew what was going on. Cuz they were in those same third grade classes that I was and lot of them had seen her lectures, even when we were very young. And you know, she doesn’t go into the full story, but her history was part of our history growing up.


    Question: I asked you this before, but how is it different, thinking and learning about the Holocaust, knowing that you had a direct connection to it. How is that different from someone who learns about it historically?

    Answer: I think when you're learning about the Holocaust as a child, knowing that you're learning about these experiences, that your own family went through it, just makes it so much more personal. And really- really strikes you in the heart, you know, there were a lot of books that I remember reading that my friends would say that was what it difficult to get through and I would read them and be hysterically sobbing ‘cuz I would sit there and think that that character in that book was my grandmother, that the person that was cooking me dinner every night, and it makes it challenging sometimes. To talk about, to read about, to study, but it also makes it that much more empowering to know that you need to continue these stories on and make sure that they are heard.


    Question: Let’s talk about that. When did- when did- when did that point strike you? Is that something you knew all along as you got older and your grandmother got older? [Indistinguishable] What’s your thought process along those lines?

    Answer: When I was younger, I never particular thought of it is my responsibility to continue telling my stories because my grandmother was such a powerhouse, and as always been there to tell her own story which I think is so powerful to hear it first person. As she's gotten older, and not only that but also with my cousins and I have grown up and gotten more mature, I absolutely think that it's up to us to continue on her legacy because we're not telling it first-hand, but hearing it through the words of someone that's related to a person that went through any sort of tragedy just has a different level to it.

    [end of take two]


    Question: [Indistinguishable]

    Answer: I think there are a lot of characteristics of my grandmother that I embody. Even small things, like people always come up to me and say that we look a lot alike, especially when they're looking at old photos of her. I can't tell you how many times I've been stopped on the street and people come up to me and say “this might sound strange, but are you Margit Feldman’s grand daughter?”


    Question: [Indistinguishable]

    Answer: I can’t tell you how many times, on the street people have come up to me and said “are you Margot Feldman's granddaughter? ‘Cuz you just looks so much like her.” And that's- it makes me so proud, not as a physical resemblance, but I think there's an emotional one as well. I think that my grandmother cares deeply about education, and school has always been so important to me. Making sure that I understand the world around me. I think that my grandmother is- is a lion in a lot of ways. She knows when to Roar, but she also can take a step back and I think that I have that same characteristic. I think that she puts her friends and her family above everything. Whenever I call her, her first question to me is always not “How’s work” not “What’ve you been doing” but “How are your friends? Who have you been spending time with recently?” She cares about having roots, and being grounded in her community, and I feel exactly the same way.


    Question: Let’s talk about the idea of roots. Do you think it’s especially sensitive for her because she lost so much of her roots?

    Answer: I have to sneeze; I’m sorry. Or I think It’s going to go away… I think it went away, sorry!


    Question: Let’s talk about how a little more understandable, how for someone who went through this, to have a real need for life with roots and connections. In your opinion- from your own perspective, your psychological awareness.

    Answer: I can only imagine how important for someone that is displaced at all, let alone someone who went through the added tragedy that she went through, to create a foundation for themselves, and to create a community around themselves. And I feel that with my grandmother all the time. There’s barely a time where I’m out running an errand with her where someone doesn’t come up and say “Are you Margit Feldman? I heard you give a lecture.” Or a Temple member comes up to her. And I feel like she really needed to solidify a place in the world for herself after the tragedy she went through, and she’s done that with engaging with her community, and making sure that she really became a part of it.


    Question: If you want to talk about, let’s circle back a little bit. What’s the weight on you as a third-generation person, to make sure their story is told. You might want to do it, but there’s still that emotional part- what are the challenges or the weight on you as a third-generation person?

    Answer: Yeah, I’m comfortable answering the question, yeah… I’m just trying to think a little bit…


    Question: I think you’ve told us something like that, the follow up is that something that you know doesn’t come without a cost.

    Answer: That’s a very different question, yeah.


    Question: [Indistinguishable]…pressure, and cost of it… even though you want to… Whenever you want to, we won’t say another word.

    Answer: [laughs] I think constantly about continuing my grandmother's story when she's gone, and even though it's something that I feel honored to be able to do, it's really daunting because so much of what makes her story, and the story of other survivors powerful is that it's their words. It's this own person telling their own story and how can you convey all of that emotional impact as when it's told through that one person's eyes and I-I think that it's something that I'll be capable of doing but I just don't know how you get the same impact through and it's- it's a tough question that I think a lot of future generations will think about. It's not just remembering, it’s learning how to connect, when the person who went through it, isn't there to connect to.


    Question: How though, how is it going to affect you emotionally? Or how it will affect you when you’re in front of people.

    Answer: [Sighs] It’s difficult to talk about, sometimes. As much as it was a topic of conversation when I was growing up, its different when you’re asked to give this speech or presentation in front of a group of people because it’s something that you’re so connected to. And in a lot of ways is just ingrained in you. And it’s hard to talk about in pubic settings sometimes, because how do you explain to people that, this person that, raised you, is also that person that went through such horror. It makes it difficult to tell that story. It’s hard not to cry, it’s hard not to get emotional, it’s hard to say “maybe I don’t want to introduce my grandmother,” “maybe I don’t want to go to that event,” maybe I just can’t handle participating right now. But, she’s never said that, so I can never say that.

    [end of take three]


    Question: She wasn’t just a Holocaust survivor, first and foremost she was your grandmother. Talk about that so everyone can hear.

    Answer: The memories that come through with me, thinking about growing up with my grandmother, are not about her being a survivor. The things that come through to me are: her picking me up at school, her taking me to summer camp, us cooking together, us laughing together, us being a family together. And that, first and foremost, is always the person that she will be. And she’s the best, at all of that, I couldn’t have asked for a more loving, more caring grandmother in my life. And when I sit down and really think about the fact that on top of all of this, she also has that tattoo on her arm. She also is a survivor. It’s hard for me sometimes to reconcile both of those. But I know that one informs the other, in a lot of ways. She cares so much about her community, and her family, and being this incredible Mother, Grandmother, Caregiver, because that was taken away from her. And I care so much about making sure that everyone knows that it doesn’t matter what you’ve gone through in your life. In a lot of ways, it’s a story to tell. There’s always people that you can inspire; there’s always something to learn from an experience, and, I think she embodies that everyday.


    Question: How much fun was your grandma?

    Answer: [Smiles] My grandmother was, the most fun, care free, outgoing woman that I knew. She’ll talk to anyone about anything, she will make a party and a meal and a big dinner out of any situation. Those “home-y” memories are so much a part of her personality for me. And always with a smile on her face. That’s one thing I- I will never be able to get out of my mind, that anyone who meets her, she is always, is smiling through anything.


    Question: How amazing is that, that [Indistinguishable]

    Answer: She’s Superwoman! When you think about the fact that she suffered more than most people have suffered, but yet she puts on this brave face and charges forward. And she builds this life for herself: She’s a superhero.

    [End of take four]

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  • Sources and Credits:


    Caryn Horowitz on her grandmother’s passing 2020.