A number. Not a name. Destined for death in a concentration camp. Who was #85454, and how does his life impact yours today? Every day is Holocaust Memorial Day to those who were fortunate enough to survive, and in this episode Linda interviews Jonny Daniels, Founder of From the Depths, an organization dedicated to preserving the memory of the Holocaust, serving survivors and their families, and educating young people with truth about that dark time in history. We may think we are immune from such horrific human rights abuses happening again, but are we? What are the warning signs? How can we protect future generations from such depravity and despair? Listen to learn what you can do to support survivors and to protect future generations from repeating the evils of the past.
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Linda J Hansen:The significance of #85454, never again, a number not a name, destined for death in a concentration camp. Who was #85454 and how does his life impact yours today. Every day is Holocaust Memorial Day to those who were fortunate enough to survive and in this episode I interview Jonny Daniels, founder of From the Depths, an organization dedicated to preserving the memory of the Holocaust, serving survivors and their families, and educating young people with truth about that dark time in history. We may think we are immune from such horrific human rights abuses happening again, but are we? What are the warning signs? How can we protect future generations from such depravity and despair? As you listen, I hope you’ll consider what you can do to support the survivors and to protect future generations from repeating the evils of the past.
We recently had the Holocaust Memorial Day and so many people in America and around the world don’t think about the Holocaust. There are those who are survivors. There are those who helped others survive and there are those who have history in their family line. But in a way we all have that history in our family line and we must never forget.
So in honor of them and in honor of all those people still affected by the Holocaust today, I have a special guest, Jonny Daniels, the founder of From the Depths Ministry. So Jonny, welcome, and I’d love for you to tell your story to my listening audience and tell us why you founded From the Depths.
Jonny Daniels: Thank you so much. Well, first of all thank you for having me. You know, this week we commemorated the 76thanniversary since liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Auschwitz-Birkenau, as many will note, was the largest and some of the best known of the German Nazi concentration camps, these sites of mass killing of Jews during the Second World War, these places where Jews were taken, tattooed numbers on their arms and led to their ultimate deaths. Auschwitz-Birkenau is the best known of such sites; however there were many more, places like Treblinka, Sobibor, Hinzert, Majdanek. Beyond that not all Jews were even bothered [to be] taken to these camps to be placed to work. Some were taken into the field and shot, killed in their homes or murdered in mass graves.
And it’s very personal for me. My great-grandfather was lucky enough to have left Poland just before the Second World War. As we know, Poland was occupied by the German Nazis and it’s where the largest atrocities took place with around 5 ½ million Polish citizens killed, of those three million Polish Jews, six million Jews in total. And my great-grandfather was one of these Polish Jews. Thankfully, as I said, he was lucky to be able to not be there. However, his entire family were—his brothers, sisters, parents—all murdered by the German Nazis. And this is something that I grew up with and I grew up with this understanding of where I came from, of what my past was. And it was etched into my soul from a young age and something that I felt was an integral part of who I am. It was an integral part of my being, my support, and my understanding and love for the state of Israel.
Because you see, when we say, “Never again,” the truth is that it won’t happen again to the Jewish people because we have Israel, because we are self-determined. We have the strongest army in the world. We have strong allies. It can’t happen to us again. However, it is always important and crucial never ever to forget what happened in the past. And I’ve grown up as I said, with this notion, with this memory. And it felt always like I needed to come to it at some point. Growing up, I read so many books on the Holocaust. I heard so many survivors as I grew up surrounded by them. However, I could never really bring myself to visit and actually only after we met.
At eighteen, I left London, England, where I was born and raised as you can hear from my accent and I moved to Israel. I spent a year in Israel studying in a Talmudic college in Be’er Sheva. I finished my studies and decided to join the army, to give back to my people, to make sure that we were strong. I served three years as a paratrooper in the Israeli Defense Forces. I finished my service as a staff sergeant and I started working in Knesset, in Israel’s Parliament, again with this continued thought of giving back to my people and making sure that we remained strong and powerful.
And that’s where we met, at my work. I was working at that time with the Deputy Speaker of the Knesset,Danny Danon, who later became Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations. Many of your listeners may have heard of him. I finished my…and during my time there, one of my responsibilities was working with foreign leaders and politicians and businessmen, so on and so forth, coming to Israel. And one of such people was Hermann Cain who you worked with and that’s how we met in Jerusalem all those years ago.
Only a year after that, I took my first trip to Poland. As I said, I was working with a lot of different people. One of the people was a TV personality by the name of Glen Beck. Glen had come to Israel and he’d just left Fox News and was starting his own media network. He decided that one of his first trips he wanted to be about the Holocaust and traveled to Auschwitz and I kind of felt that it was my duty at that point to go with him. I went with Glen and it was the first time that I stood on those hallowed grounds of Auschwitz-Birkenau,the largest site of mass killing in the world. I stood on this ground where 1.1 million people were mass murdered—one, over one million Jews. I stood there and it affected me in every part of my being and I understood at that point that I also need to focus my work and my life’s work on making sure that it’s not forgotten.
Jonny:Yeah, because I know that we’re going to talk about this, but itisbeing forgotten. It’s easy…again; a lot of the people who listen to you are going to be educated people, people with a great understanding of history and of world money. But for a lot of people, they simply don’t know.
Linda:They simply don’t know. Before we were recording I mentioned that I was watching a PragerU video and they were actually interviewing young people about their knowledge of the Holocaust. They were saying, “Tell me what you know about the Holocaust.” And these young people would look at them and say, “Is that a movie?” or “I don’t know. Who is it?” And to me that is just so sad. It is horrendous because if we don’t understand the mistakes that we’ve all made in the past, whether it’s the Holocaust or slavery, or anything like that, we are doomed to repeat them.
Jonny: Right. Again, I’m Jewish and this was very much a part of my upbringing and my education, my understanding, and my knowledge. But for a lot of people it isn’t. There’s a way for us to look at this group of people who don’t know and these youngsters, and be angry and upset. And they should know, right? And this is what we should say. But also we have to be understanding that it’s not always that way, right? For example, you’ll probably remember but about four or five months ago a well-known NFL player by the nameDeSean Jacksonput on his Instagram a horrendous Insta-story where he wrote that he shared some ridiculousness about Hitler, and Hitler’s quoted some about Jews and Blacks. It was a really disgusting horrendous anti-Semitic and problematic quote and at that point everybody went crazy and attacked this NFL player.
I was sitting in Poland in my apartment late in the evening and I thought, “You know, this isn’t right.” Of course he made a mistake. There’s no doubt that he’s mistaken and he doesn’t know. However, this is a man, maybe thirty years old. I’m only 35. The fact that he doesn’t know about Jewish suffering…Look, the guy’s spent his whole life playing sports, right? His aim, his goal in life is to run fast and catch, right? (Linda chuckling) And tackle and block, right? We can’t expect a sportsman to be a history major. It doesn’t work like that.
And rather than just call to cancel him, and all of this, I reached out to him along with Edward Mosberg, a Holocaust survivor, and got on the phone withDeSeanin the beginning and said, “Hey, Bud, listen. Obviously you did something stupid, right? There’s no getting around that.” But I grew up in London. I have no idea about African-American suffering in the United States. Obviously I know there was slavery, right? I’ve seen movies, but I couldn’t even guess how many were poor, how many African Americans were bought as slaves. I think I know what century it was in but beyond that I really don’t know and I don’t know because it’s never been at the forefront of my mind and I’ve never really put that much understanding into trying to understand and know this history.
Linda:You also don’t know because you were never taught necessarily and this is what I feel very much…I know even recently I had a guest on who was starting a new charter school because of what she feels is so lacking in the public schools and one of that is “true history.” So much of this is just ignored in our public education system at least here in America. I don’t know about around the world, but at least here in America. Now that cancel culture has come about, it’s almost like they want to rewrite the truth about what actually happened in the Holocaust and I want to scream out and say, “No, no. You need to talk to these survivors. You need to read these accounts of these people who risked their lives to protect the Jews.” This could happen again and we see it almost happening again as people is being targeted just because of their beliefs. And we see it all over the world, the way people are persecuted because of their beliefs and this is wrong. It’s so wrong.
And so From the Depths… I really appreciate your sharing that and before we get into a little more detail of the organization itself, for our listeners, he referred to when we first became acquainted with one another. It was back when I was Deputy Chief of Staff for Hermann Cain’s Presidential campaign and Hermann Cain actually got to come to Israel. I was supposed to but I didn’t get to make the trip. We had too much to do back here in the States and I wasn’t able to go, but he was there. But that’s when I first became acquainted with Jonny. And what was your role at that time?
Jonny:I was the Chief of Staff to the Deputy Speaker of the Parliament.
Linda:Right. And it was just amazing. So over the years, I have followed through mutual friends and then through us, he started this organization From the Depths. I followed the growth of the organization and what they’re doing and it’s just such an important ministry. It’s so important; I feel like everybody should know. If people have watched him on Linked-In or any of his videos, you can see some of the things that they do to help Holocaust survivors as well as those who are referred to as Righteous Among the Nations, those who maybe were not Jewish but they risked their lives, their families’ lives to protect Jews during that time which was very, very dangerous,
You have said, one of the people that you ministered to on Holocaust Memorial Day, he said, “Every day is Holocaust Memorial Day.” And I feel like that’s what we should be thinking as well and this matters to everyone. It matters to everyone. To those of us who live in a free world, it’s up to us to make sure this never, ever, ever happens again to any people.
You had mentioned what you do to minister to these beautiful, beautiful people who endured such a time in history. Can you share a little bit more about From the Depths and what you hope to do now as you minister to these people?
Jonny:Absolutely. Well, you know, the main aim initially of the organization was to make sure that we educate the younger generation and we do that with different ways. So for example, as I was talking before aboutDeSean Jackson, the NFL player, eventually we got on the phone with him and we [unintelligible (15:50)] and he’ll be coming out to visit Auschwitz later in the year, please God. We’ve had Ray Allen, an NBA all-star. We’ve had Mike Tyson with us. We visited with many, many, many celebrities and important people who are able to share this message broadly and also to a group of people who may not necessarily hear that message. You know, the people who are following Instagram or sports stars, don’t always follow the same news channels we are and getting the same education. So that was how we started on our main focus with
Instagram, Facebook and even TikTok, right? Dealing with the very young generation. But what kind of happened over time was that…obviously the Holocaust survivors are sadly leaving us at an incredibly worrying rate. I mean these people are in their 80’s and 90’s.
Linda: Especially during Covid.
Jonny:Yeah, during Covid, and sadly many, many lives have been lost. In addition to that, there was the group of the people called the Righteous Among the Nations which you spoke about before. These were non-Jews who risked their lives to save their Jewish neighbors during the war. Something that on paper would seem like the kind of thing that we’d all say, “Yeah, I’d do that,” right? Like obviously, there’s no question. If someone else was in need, of course I’d open my door. That’s the right thing to do. As many have told me, that’s the Christian thing to do. Even the Righteous in Albania who were Muslims told me it was the Islamic thing to do. People leaned on faith and did these things. However, only when you’re really on grounds, do you really understand what that means. You see, Linda, you have a beautiful family.
Jonny: It’s easy to hope and I can talk about myself. I have two amazing daughters who I love more than anything in the world. Would I risk my daughters’ lives for somebody else? Now the thing was, it wasn’t just, “Oh, you’re risking your life.” Families were murdered for saving a Jew. Now once you’ve seen that happen, would you still continue to hide someone in your house, risking your children? It’s something that I spoke to Holocaust survivor, Edward Mosberg, about this and I asked him, “Eddie, would you have done what they did? And he said, “You know what, Jonny, if I was risking my own life, maybe. If I was risking my family’s life, I wouldn’t. I couldn’t risk…and so when you look at that, it makes these people even more heroic. And it makes the understanding of what they did even greater and even deeper.
And from all of these remarkable people, 195 still live; that’s it. There were two hundred, there were 22,791 honored by Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Israel and as I said, 195 still live. And in fact, sadly, just before we were getting on this talk, I’m a little bit late for it and the reason is because just a half an hour ago I received the information that a lady called Mrs. Żabińska passed away. Mrs. Żabińska was someone that your audience may have even heard of. So there was a movie that came out about two years ago calledThe Zookeepers’ Wife. It was a movie that portrayed and told the story of Jan and Antonina Żabiński. The Żabiński’s along with their children hid over three hundred Jews in the Warsaw zoo during the Second World War—in the zoo.
Jonny:They were hiding in animal enclosures. They were hiding in the middle of the zoo when Nazi’s were walking around. They risked their lives to save the lives of others. The daughter that took part, sadly passed away just today. And it’s this group of people in their last years that deserve all the love, respect, and heart that we can give them. We need to be giving them everything. When people talk to me about Holocaust education, I often use these people’s stories as examples of how we should behave today.
Linda:You told a story once about…you had visited a family and they said you were the first Jew who’s been in our apartment and this was an amazing story about a family. Could you share that please?
Jonny:Yeah, so I was in a city in the south of Poland. We were visiting and sort of just talking to locals. I was kept being told of this family called the Skotzshevas [spelling 20:46] family in a small village and people told me, “Go there, go there, go there.” So we went towards this house and it was really something that one may imagine from seeingFiddler on the Roof—this old wooden house with a wooden fence and chickens in the yard and rabbits running around for dinner and I stepped into this time warp of this home. I knocked on the door. The family saw me and burst out crying. It was kind of a strange reaction. People react to me in different ways; crying usually isn’t one of them. I was a bit taken aback and I asked, “Why are you crying?” And they told me, “Look, Jonny, you are the first Jew to enter this house in over seventy years. We’re so thankful you came.”
And a bit aghast, I asked what they were referring to and what they meant. The family took me to their kitchen and we walked towards the kitchen and they lifted up the floorboards and under the floorboards was a small hiding place, a little cellar. I went down and I went inside this tiny place. I stood there sort of cramped over barely able to stand, realizing that this was one of the last hiding places in existence, which I thought, “What an amazing story. They hid Jews here.”
As I exited the hiding place, I asked them, “What was the story?” The lady could barely control herself and her son pulled me to the side. He took me to the back and said, “Do you see this field of wheat?” I saw the field. He said, “You see that there’s a spot where nothing will grow?” And there was a rectangular spot in the wheat not far from the fence where nothing was growing. I said, “Why? What’s up with that?” He said, “The neighbors, one of the neighbors ratted us out and the Germans came. Somehow the Jews weren’t there but they entered this hiding place and they saw a Jewish prayer book and it was enough for them to gather the entire family—this entire family of Poles—Polish Catholics, Polish Christians. They were rounded up and put into the barn and burned alive, murdered so everybody could see what you’d get for helping a Jew.”
I didn’t know what to say. Do I say thank you? Do I say sorry? What do these words even mean in this situation and scenario? How can I express my thanks and graciously? I don’t know what to do.
Linda:There are no words.
Jonny:No words. We did everything that we could afterwards to give this family support. We’ve been back many times. We were back there with Ray Allen, with Dean Cain,
Linda:Dean Cain is one of your board members, of your…
Jonny:Dean Cain, the Hollywood actor. We had Governor Hucklebee—Governor Mike Huckabee joined us in Poland about a year and a half ago. We took him to visit the family as well. We’ve taken members of the United States Congress. Everybody back to this house, to this home, to this hiding place to see and this is a big part of this focus of understanding what it means to stand up and do what’s right. And as you said before, we’re seeing this today. We’re seeing this in China with the Uighurs community.
Jonny:It’s terrible. I was thinking today, what price do you put on a human life? Because this is effectively what we’re doing, right? What’s happening now with China is just…it comes down to economics and it shouldn’t. The same way that shops are closing and businesses are closing through this difficult time to stop the spread of Covid. Yes, business owners are being impacted, but would you put a price on the life of your father, your mother or your grandmother? No. Everything is worth it. When we look at this community, the Uighurs community, you look at the lack of governments all around the world failing to stand up and say, “Stop!” And no one’s doing that and you wonder where the righteous are today.
Linda:And you are one. I thank you so much for standing up and starting an organization to help others and to help people to never forget.
I notice you wear a bracelet. Could you tell us, your bracelet, what it means and what those numbers stand for?
Jonny:So I wear a bracelet on my right arm. The bracelet was given to me by Holocaust survivor, Edward Mosberg, who is the chairman of my foundation and on the bracelet has five simple numbers, 8-5-4-5-4. These numbers are the numbers that were given to him in Mauthausen concentration camp. Mauthausen was a concentration camp in Austria. They didn’t even bother tattooing the Jews because they knew there was no point. They were all sent there to work to death.
Edward miraculously survived that along with other camps. He has kept with him every day since then that number, that bracelet, that he was given. He made me a copy of it and he gave me this and I wear on my wrist. He said, “Jonny, when people stop you and ask you, ‘What are those numbers on your arm?’ You’ll remember me and you’ll tell my story.”
And I wear it every single day as a reminder to myself of how lucky I am, how blessed I am to know and be able to spend time with people such as Mr. Mosberg, but also to be born today and to live as a free man, to live as a person who can stand tall and proud and practice my faith and my religion of Judaism without fear. And in places where I do have fear, I shouldn’t, and I look down and I remember what it means. You know, people often hide away from religion especially Judaism. It’s not easy when you’re persecuted so much.
Jonny:But the truth is, and it was actually a speech I heard by Sheldon Adelson who passed away not long ago, the philanthropist. Sheldon said, he said, “Always remember you’re a Jew because if you forget, someone else is going to remind you. It could be a day, a week, a month, or a few years. Someone’s always going to remind you that you’re a Jew.” And this is why I stand tall and proud. This is why I wear the bracelet on my wrist as a constant reminder.
Linda: That’s beautiful. That is really beautiful. So I really encourage people to think about that. I know during the Vietnam War we had prisoner of war bracelets that we had for many, many years. I wore a prisoner of war, a POW bracelet, for someone until I learned that he had come back alive.
We can’t forget. In our current culture, we are not teaching our young people the truth about our history and how to protect these things from happening. We often think, “Oh, that’s happening to someone else.” But it can easily happen to us. I know you and I talked before about how these things just slip into a culture and I know in Germany, too, like a lot of things that we’re seeing in current culture around the world and in America now, things that are done for our “safety,” for our “protection,” but they’re taking away our freedoms. They’re putting us at risk for things to happen similar to the Holocaust because we are becoming dependent on a government and dependent on what they are feeding us for information and that is never good and I’m so thankful that you are keeping this history alive and in front of people and you are bringing these stories forward.
I know one of the things that you try to do with these survivors is to provide some of their basic needs. I know you’ve done grocery delivery, medicine delivery. You’ve helped people to have wheeled carts so that they can get around and especially during Covid. These people are elderly. Many times they do not have financial resources. Their families are far away and you have made it a point to minister to them with their basic needs and letting them know they are not forgotten. We have not forgotten. I know that all of that cost money, too. And I just invite people—I know this is not why you’re on the broadcast—but I invite people to go to your website and to prayerfully consider supporting you with a financial donation because you do such great work and I know that you’re recently bringing on a psychologist.
Jonny: You’re correct. The main focus of our work over Covid has been to be able to stand and support these people, right? The majority of these people are in their nineties. Jozef Walaszczyk, for example, celebrated his one hundredth and first birthday during Covid. These are people who need our support and it’s not just simply the fact of bringing them stuff, right? Because as we mentioned, a lot of them live alone. Going shopping is difficult for them especially during Covid. It’s very rampant here. So for us to go shopping and be able to supply them with their groceries and not just that, but with masks and sanitizers and gloves, which they often want. We have a free taxi service that drives them daily.
You know during Christmas we went to them and we bought them huge packages for Christmas full of everything they needed to celebrate Christmas. Actually about two weeks before Christmas, I was speaking to one of the Righteous and she mentioned to me that she was a little sad because this would be her first year without a Christmas tree. She can’t go and get one. It’s too dangerous for her to get outside. So I rented a van and I went and drove to a tree farm. I twisted this guy’s arm so far behind his back it almost snapped. [Linda chuckling] I left his farm with 200 Christmas trees [Linda laughing]. I think I’m probably the Jew that’s bought the most amount of Christmas trees in history. I had to wrap them and make a Christmas tree look pretty. We went to each one of their houses individually. I drove over 4,000 miles in the weeks coming up to Christmas personally hand delivering the packages full of all the Christmas foods and Christmas cards and even had a logo made to put on the Christmas trees with our foundations logo. It was such a pleasure for them to receive this with the Christmas tree. It was this outpouring and this outreach of love and respect for them, that once again showed them that, “We love you; we care about you; we’re thankful for what you did. We’ll never ever forget.”
Linda:We never forget.
Jonny:Never forget. And as you said, we jumped head first and took a psychologist on working with us because of that need for them to speak. So many of them are home and haven’t really gone out for a year. They’re not meeting together obviously. Some don’t have family members. Some who do, don’t see their family members, so to be able to have someone call them and speak to them and make sure that their mental health is also well and that they feel good and strong. This is something crucial and important. We jumped head first in. I have no idea how I’m paying for it, but God will provide as he always does,
Jonny:and will make it happen.
Linda:Well, I’ll take that moment to just say for everyone, you can go to fromthedepths.org and look to see how you could support that, but that is really a beautiful ministry.
As you were talking I was thinking about what a beautiful testimony this is, too, really about Judeo-Christian principals. I know, our listeners don’t know but, you and I prayed together before we started recording. You are a Jew; I am a Christian and we look and there is a creator God that we love so dearly and we unite in supporting those Judeo-Christian principals that provide for freedom and liberty and justice and righteousness and life. We are just so grateful for that. This is such a great example that you’re bringing to the world, too, for reaching across those lines. We’re talking about unity all the time. And this honors God in that fact but also it honors others and I just think that that’s great. Not only that we’re across…we might be having a few internet bobbles here or there because you’re in Poland right now, correct?
Jonny:Yes, I came back to [Unintelligible (34:03)] during Covid.
Linda:Right. And so we’re doing this thankfully over the internet which I’ve had a blizzard here and my internet has been very spotty all day so I’m glad it’s still working. But again we look at this and you mentioned about being born at this time in history. We have the freedom to do this. We are not hiding in a little basement because someone is persecuting Christians. I think of Christians in Nigeria right now. You mentioned the people being persecuted in China. We cannot allow this to happen. We have to speak up. I just am so grateful for your ministry.
You had mentioned before, this family where they had a hiding place which made me think of a book that has always touched my heart every time I read it. It’s calledThe Hiding Placeby Corrie ten Boom. I don’t know if you’ve read it, but if our listeners have not read it, I really encourage you. It was published many, many years ago. Corrie ten Boom, her family hid Jews basically, protected Jews during the Holocaust but I know many of her family members were lost to the concentration camps and she survived and she wrote her stories. The one that I remember the most is calledThe Hiding Placeby Corrie ten Boom. You’ll really get to see things.
You have other…I’m sure through your website and through your work people can get educated. Where would you say that they should go to learn more and to learn how to teach their children about the Holocaust?
Jonny: Look, I think that there are amazing films that have been made and very good documentaries and these are things that are very easily found. There are movies likeSchindler’s ListandThe Pianist. There are also a lot of books. I haven’t read Corrie’s book and however, there are many, many others.
I think…I’ll just go back to something that you said before. I think that vigilance is the key. We are dealing in a situation today where, you know, thank God times are different, Right? There still is this opportunity for knowledge and education and understanding that we didn’t have before. But the same way that some definitely view that the need of vigilance of government and talk and so on and so forth, there’s also a huge issue now with extremism on both sides because it’s hatred on a start that leads down a very, very quick and slippery path.
Auschwitz did not start with Jews being thrown into ovens. It’s how it ended. And it started with not understanding that we’re all born in the image of God. There’s no difference between you and I, right? We pray slightly differently. There is no difference between me and an atheist. I pray; he doesn’t. Skin color’s nonsense; who cares? There’s no difference between any of us. The problem is that we make differences. And all sides are guilty of it today. There’s clearly worrying stuff happening now as you said. And I think that the point is again that we all need to be vigilant of taking the middle road. Because extremism either way is not right; it is not good, and it never leads to anything good.
If there’s one thing that I think that I’ve learned from this entire thing, and my whole journey with these people and speaking to them and understanding from them, because I’ve met by now by far the majority of the living Righteous. The one thing that I’ve really met through knowing all of them is just this understanding of not willing to not stand up and watch things happen, because truly anything could happen. As we said, there were many who were murdered, more than we could ever begin to remember. A British member of Parliament, we found out that his uncle was murdered. So many stories and these stories are stories that will only be known by God. And I think this is also remarkably powerful. We must always remember and always do all that we can to ensure that this doesn’t happen again. And just getting kids focusing on what’s right and what’s true. And it’s not always easy because universities like to press a lot of garbage down kid’s throats.
Linda: So do elementary schools.
Jonny:Yeah. It’s frightening; it truly is.
Linda:It is absolutely petrifying when we think about what the lack of education and the promotion of education that is not based on truth. So lack of education on truth and promoting things are not truth and just continuing to promote it enough so that it becomes common belief and it doesn’t change what truth is. Well, there’s that whole line, “Well, your truth or my truth.” Well there’s truth and there’s non-truth. So this actually happened. We need to make sure it never happens again and in any form. Oftentimes people say, “Well, we wouldn’t have concentration camps again.” Well, wouldn’t we? They are having similar things in other parts of the world. There’re executions and everything in other parts of the world. We shouldn’t be so naïve to think it couldn’t happen to us. So your work of not only educating people but also showing compassion and care to those who suffered during the Holocaust and those who helped the suffering and tried to protect life during that time, highlights some of the finest things.
You know, courage is contagious. Courage is contagious and you are showing courage and those people showed courage. So please tell them thank you because without them we can’t tell this story. We need to hear their stories. I hope when you have staff members go, you record what they say; you record their stories. You get it preserved for history and that it’s something we can pass down to future generations. It is difficult and painful to go through and listen to these people talk about their suffering, but we must do it so we never forget.
Could you tell us a little more about your board members? You mentioned Dean Cain. How did you get him on the board? What’s the connection? And also your other board members so people when they go to look they can see just a little bit more of the story of your organization.
Jonny: Absolutely. As I said, for me the most important thing is that…first of all, the most important person on our board and the person who really stands above everybody else is a Holocaust survivor, our honorary chairman, Edward Mosberg. Edward, as I said, is a Holocaust survivor and this remarkable man. Our honorary president, he is a man called Avram Grant, who is the former manager of the Israeli national soccer team—Chelsea soccer team. They run an international club. Avram brings us a completely different set of skills that we wouldn’t have otherwise and contacts in the world of sports which is remarkably important.
Dean Cain, as we spoke about, is the head of the board of our directors. Dean, as most people know, is a Hollywood actor and sometime host on Fox and other places, a wonderful, very, very good friend of mine. I’ve known Dean for years and he’s the most charming and lovely person and he’s really been so wonderful. I don’t think there’s an event that we’ve had over the last few years, pre-Covid obviously, in Poland, that Dean hasn’t flown often on his own dime to host and be there. When these Righteous, these real heroes, see that Superman has come to them, it really, really blows their mind. It is a beautiful thing to see.
And the other person we have is a guy called Joe Erlichster. Joe is an amazing guy, a businessman from Israel who is an Orthodox Jew today, but he actually was born in hiding. His mother was saved by a Catholic priest. Another amazing story. This priest was a well-known anti-Semite before the war. He hated Jews, didn’t like us at all. When the war started even he knew what it meant to be right and good. He opened his church, opened it up and saved the life of Joe’s parents and that’s a really beautiful thing and so we had to have him involved in it.
Linda:That’s a beautiful story. It is. Well, I know our time is coming to a close and it’s very late where you are right now. Thank you for staying up late and taking time out for this interview.
I often talk about what employers can do, but this obviously is a message for everyone involved. Anyone listening can learn from this particular interview and apply it to their lives, to their families. Parents, please teach your children. Please teach your children. But employers can do something, too, because you can donate, whether you are an individual or a business, you can donate and help your cause. I know that you run a pretty lean ship from what I understand and the money will go to good use to help these individuals and to help preserve the message, to help spread the message that we should never forget. So the money will be well spent. So you can go to fromthedepths.org but also in your…if you are an employer there are ways you can educate you employees. You could just put something up like a Holocaust Memorial Day. Just inform people. You don’t have to preach to them. You don’t have to tell them your point of view. Just give them information because honestly most people if they see the horrors of the Holocaust they will rise up and say we should never forget. We never want that to happen again. So they can’t know if we don’t tell them. We must inform people.
Do you have any resources that you recommend for people?
Jonny: Absolutely. I think the first thing you said is perfectly correct that the main thing here is that we can’t expect other people to tell our story if we don’t tell it ourselves. And we must, must, must, must educate. One idea that we worked with with a couple of businesses on Holocaust Memorial Day when they said, “What can we do? How can we show our staff that we care about this without pushing and educating? So they said, “Look, what we’re going to do is we’re going to light candles and we’re going to each have a candle. And they lit the candles in the workplace and people said, “What’s that?” And it was a simple message that was able to really permeate and get in the hearts of these people.
I also have to say that I know now is a hard time financially for a lot of businesses and business owners during Covid. As you said we run a very, very lean ship and we are a 501C3 in the United States and donations are always graciously accepted. Not everybody can donate today and that’s understandable. But what people can do is get in touch with us. Help spread our message and also write letters. There’s nothing more than these people love to receive than a letter from someone in Minnesota in the United States or wherever they may be, just saying we love you, we care about you, thank you. It doesn’t cost anything. It’s just a little bit of time and it’s spreading this love. I think that this is really, really what’s so important.
Linda: That’s great. So they could do that through your website?
Jonny:Absolutely, through fromthedepth.org or through Facebook. You can find us everywhere.
Linda:That’s really beautiful. And I just, you know, so many of our lives are touched by people who were impacted from the Holocaust. And honestly when we think about… it was called a world war because it was a world war. There was hardly anyone in the world who wasn’t affected at that time. But I know my family history, my great-grandparents all came over from we thought Germany but we recently discovered that one of my great-grandfathers actually fled Germany to Czechoslovakia and came over from Czechoslovakia. And my grandparents used to send packages all the time back to relatives in Germany. There’s so much history there that I wish I knew more. We’ve tried to preserve as much as we can and track down as much as we can, but I don’t think that there’s really anybody now in this current generation that if we go back a few generations that there wasn’t some effect in our families because of this time. So it’s upon us to make sure we prevent it for future generations.
Jonny: Absolutely. I think the other thing that’s really crucial and important for me to say here. There are a lot of people who listen, who will have had family members who would have served in the United States armed forces and we have to say thank you.
Jonny: Thank you for your service, because at the end of the day it wasn’t… it’s easy… you know, we often talk about this, but we don’t forget how this was ended. This was ended because of the Allied Forces and because of the Soviets as well who stopped the German Nazi’s from their killing machines.
I’ll never forget the conversations that I had with the Holocaust survivors, people like Jack Garfein who sadly passed, a legend of theater at Baldwin. Jack who was liberated from the concentration camp Bergen-Belsen by British troops, others liberated by American soldiers, speak of this warmth, the messiah who came, and this is so crucially important that really…and so many survivors.
I know that I was close, had the honor of being close with Elie Wiesel, the notorious… who won a Holocaust survivor Nobel laureate. I heard once someone told me, “Jonny, whenever we’d get back to the States and we passed through the passport control, and they’d say, ‘Welcome home,’ he had the biggest smile on his face because for him America was home.” America was the country that accepted him and that took him in and enabled him to flourish, to live the American dream. And this really, really is important and God bless American and the American troops and the British forces and all those incredible people who stopped this and enabled people to survive. It really is very important that we also remember them as well.
Linda:Yes, it is. Thank you to everyone listening who either…you may be a WWII vet. There are very few of them, too, but you probably have a family member who served in WWII, like I do. We have to look at that and say thank you.
That reminds me of the importance of having strong military, a strong allied relationships and being ready to conquer in these conflicts. Peace through strength. Peace through strength. We were able to win that battle or that war because we had strength. I would say to people elections have consequences. Ideas have consequences. We’ve often heard that quote, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” We have to be aware, engaged and remember that freedom is not free. Freedom is never free. If we want to stay free and have our children and grandchildren be free, we need to never forget and we need to work hard every day to make sure that we’re doing our part, what we can do to protect that freedom now and in the future.
With that, Jonny, is there anything else that you’d like to say before we close?
Jonny:We’ve said so much. I really, once again, I think that the most important thing is that we all remember and we remember in our own ways, and it must be etched into our hearts. Because again, obviously the Holocaust is the largest tragedy to befall my people, the Jewish people, but there are many other things that impact our own lives and it’s so important that we take these messages from our history, whether we’re Jewish or African-American and understand that it’s all of us suffering together. So many, many people, I don’t think there is any nation, once again if you go far back that hasn’t suffered somehow and we all come from this line and whilst we remember the past, we also must remember that we need to build for our future. And this for me is the most important thing and by far and large the reason I’m doing this is for my daughters. So that they can live in a world that is a little better than the world I grew up in. And it doesn’t look like we are going in that direction. But please God, it does get better and I think that more than anything this is the most important thing. You know, we say, “Never again.” We say, “Never forget.” And also one of the things we always say is, “Never forgive.” Forgiveness isn’t ours, we have no… Edward Mosberg, a Holocaust survivor, he forgave. He said, “Jonny, only the dead don’t forgive, only the dead.”
Linda:We can forgive in our will. We can forgive in our heart in a way. But only God is the one who can truly forgive. That He knows the heart of the oppressor. Only God is the one and it’s not up to us to be that judge.
Well, with that, I thank you so much. Freedom is not free. Thank you for promoting, protecting, preserving, and fighting for freedom. And for being bold and courageous to start an organization to work to defend those who can’t defend themselves, to work to and protect and help those who can’t protect and help themselves. And to make sure that the next generation absolutely knows about the history but also they have an example to follow of courage and boldness and someone who’s not afraid to stand up for what is right and good and what’s truthful. So thank you. You’ve been great.
I know that I gave the website before, fromthedepths.org. Then if people want to get a hold of you personally, they can do that right through the website, correct?
Jonny:Correct. You can get in touch directly with our website, through all kinds of social media. Always happy to talk to everybody.
Linda:Ok. Well, I invite you to do that. Go find him on Facebook, on Instagram. He said he’s on Tiktok. I know he’s on LinkedIn and then you can go to the website, fromthedepths.org.
Again, thank you, Jonny. We’re so grateful for your time and so grateful for your ministry. Thank you.
Jonny:God bless you. Thank you.