In My Own Words with Bernice Lerner and Ruth Mermelstein (née Rachel Genuth)
Original program date February 7, 2021
Before the word “Holocaust” entered modern parlance, Bernice Lerner learned about her parents’ wartime experiences. But before she learned what they had suffered and endured, she heard stories about their childhoods and post-war years, which seemed adventure-filled. Of course, the ruptures in their lives were more complicated and tragic than she could imagine as a child. In fact, it has taken decades of research for her to gain an understanding of what happened to members of her family. Lerner felt compelled to write a book that answers the question of how–against all odds–her mother survived. Not only does “All the Horrors of War” tell her mom’s story, but it also details the parallel journey of a key liberator.
On April 15, 1945, Brigadier H. L. Glyn Hughes entered Bergen-Belsen for the first time. Waiting for him were 10,000 unburied corpses and 60,000 living prisoners, starving and sick. One month earlier, 15-year-old Rachel Genuth (Bernice’s Mom) arrived at Bergen-Belsen; deported with her family from Sighet, Transylvania, in May of 1944, Rachel had by then already endured Auschwitz, the Christianstadt labor camp, and a forced march through the Sudetenland. In All the Horrors of War, Bernice Lerner follows both Hughes and Genuth as they move across Europe toward Bergen-Belsen in the final, brutal year of World War II.
“Bernice Lerner’s All the Horrors of War is a powerful and poignant tale that traces both the arc of the war and the history of the Holocaust. In this meticulously researched and detailed account, Lerner never lets the reader forget the humanity of the victims or their liberators.” — Dr. Michael Berenbaum, Director, Sigi Ziering Holocaust Institute, American Jewish University
About our Speakers:
Before and after she served as director of Boston University’s Center for the Advancement of Ethics and Character (now the Center for Character and Social Responsibility), Bernice worked at Hebrew College—most recently as dean of adult learning. All told, she has more than twenty-five years of experience in the field of adult education. It has been her great privilege to create and implement innovative programs, lead productive teams, and work with outstanding faculty in the realms of philosophy, education, and Jewish studies.
Bernice has lectured widely and in various settings, including the University of Yogyakarta, Indonesia (“In and Beyond the Classroom: Educating for Courage”); the Ministry of Education, Singapore (“For Love of Country: How Schools Foster Good Citizenship”); and the University of Hiroshima, Japan (“The Theory and Practice of Character Education”). Stateside, she has given presentations at numerous conferences and addressed faculty and staff of both private and public schools. She is particularly grateful for having had the opportunity to work with hundreds of dedicated and caring educators in South Carolina.
Bernice earned a bachelor’s (summa cum laude) from Stony Brook University, a master’s from the Jewish Theological Seminary, and a doctorate from Boston University. Among courses she taught at Boston University were Resistance During the Holocaust and Character and Ethics Education. She also designed and taught Ethical Decision Making for Education Leaders for Northeastern University’s College of Professional Studies.
Ruth Mermelstein (née Rachel Genuth)
Ruth is a speaker for the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County, through which she has shared her wartime experiences with nearly 300 school and other groups.
Special thank you to our program sponsor partners: