Holocaust center asks Asians for their stories

Jimin Kim (l.-r.), Su Lia, City Councilman Peter Koo's Chief of Staff James McClelland, Arthur Flug and Chejin Park call on the community to volunteer their life stories. Photo by Joe Anuta
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The head of a college program that pairs students with Holocaust survivors in order to document tales from World War II wants to gather more stories from Asia.

Since 2006, students from Queensborough Community College have taken on internships where they meet with Holocaust survivors once a week for a semester and document their subjects’ life stories. Until now, the program has been a venue largely for European survivors to provide personal accounts to complement the broader strokes in history books.

But due to the rapid influx of Asian immigrants in the Flushing area in the last few decades, the Harriet and Kenneth Kupferberg Holocaust Resource Center & Archives saw an opportunity to explore a side of the global conflict not often discussed in the Western World.

“It provides a guarantee that these stories will not be forgotten,” said Arthur Flug, executive director of the center.

But Flug cannot do it on his own.

A coalition of groups announced the start of the program last week at the offices of City Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing), who provided a grant to fund the program.

The organizers are seeking residents who lived anywhere in Asia to participate and weave their experiences into the larger fabric of history — especially since many survivors are reaching old age.

World War II ended in 1945, typically putting anyone old enough to remember details at least in their 70s.

“At this point, it’s urgent,” said Su Lia, a member of the Organization of Chinese Americans, which is also participating in the project.

Ten students will participate in the semester-long internship program, where they will also take history courses to put the stories they hear in context.

At the end of the semester they will give a presentation on their findings.

According to Chejin Park, of Korean American Civic Empowerment, a different historical perspective not often covered in American schools could promote more understanding in a borough that is packed with residents from all over the world.

“I think it will create a better relationship within our community,” he said.

Koo is also involved in a controversial quest to rename a downtown Flushing street after Comfort Women, who were from Asian countries and used as sex slaves by the Japanese Army during World War II, but a spokesman said the two projects were unrelated.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Posted 5:27 pm, September 26, 2012
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Reader feedback

Cleo from College Point says:
There was a Chinese acrobat from Shanghai who performed on the Ed Sullivan show multiple times with his other brothers who was in Germany during the attacks on Jews. He EYEwitnessed German citizens kicking Jewish citizens walking down German streets. He even performed for Nazis. He was married to a Jewish vaudevillian and their American son made a documentary about them but I forget their name.

This is a chance for the Comfort Women and Joy Division connection to be drawn!

Iris Chang's unpublished sequel was drawing the net ever closer to show that it wasn't coincidence but careful rational planning between Germans and Japanese that the atrocities committed against citizens were designed specifically against Jewish and Asians of Chinese descent citizens of the world.
Oct. 5, 2012, 7:01 pm

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