By Deb Silverthorn
Nineteen cameras, a crew of a dozen-plus, five days and 40 hours of filming are all needed to make sure that one man, Dallas’ own Max Glauben, tells his story, his history and his whole heart to generations to come.
The University of Southern California’s Shoah Foundation, Glauben and the Dallas Holocaust Museum are creating a holographic exhibit today, about the past, that will last long into the future.
“I know it is my story, but the crew I worked with should get the glory because they are something else, some very special people. That it is in their souls to be sure that our stories are heard and that our testimonies are preserved for years to come, educating the public, is a gift,” said Glauben, who was interviewed last week. “I was mesmerized at the process and can’t even fully express the appreciation I have to be a part of this. It’s truly beyond honor.”
Glauben, the 19th subject in the Dimensions in Testimony initiative, will premiere next spring in a 2D testing format at the Dallas Holocaust Museum’s current space, and then in its full 3D experience at the Dimensions in Testimony Theater at the new Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum when it opens in September 2019. In the intimate theater, museum visitors will also have access to 17 other interactive testimonies of Holocaust survivors from around the world, as well as a survivor of the 1937 Nanjing Massacre in China.
“It took me no time to want to participate,” said Glauben, who saw the project in place at Dallas’ Museum of Biblical Arts with survivor Pinchas Gutter of Toronto. That exhibit will run through the end of this year. It is available only in a few museums at this point.
The idea was first envisioned by Heather Maio Smith, managing director of Conscience Display, which creates exhibitions of survivors.
Glauben was just 10 when World War II started and 13 when he was sent on a boxcar to Majdanek, then Budzyn, Mielec, Wieliczka and Flossenburg before being liberated by a Jewish soldier while on a death march to Dachau.
He has shared testimony and developed new generations as witnesses to his tale to tens of thousands as an almost-weekly fixture at the Dallas Holocaust Museum. He has traveled across the country and served as a chaperone for Yavneh Academy’s March of the Living group 13 times. For him, he is speaking for his parents, Faiga and Isaac; his brother, Heniek; and the rest of the 6,000,000 Jews and the 5,000,000 non-Jews who died.
“I’m even more of an open book than I was because one topic brought about another, and the answer to one question had me remembering something I hadn’t talked about before,” said the 90-year-old Glauben. A longtime member of Congregation Shearith Israel, he and his wife of 65 years, Frieda, are parents of Barry (Michelle), Phillip (Linda) and Shari (Norm) Becker; grandparents of Alec (Ellen), Blake, Delaney, Hayley, Madison, Ross (Stacey) and Sarah (Brett); and great-grandparents of Natalie. “What we created is ‘conversations’ I’ll be having with the children and grandchildren of the youngest people I am meeting with now.”
During last week’s taping, Glauben answered 1,500 questions about his life before, during, and after World War II, such as “what did the Holocaust mean,” “what does it mean all these years later,” “what does God mean to you” and “do you feel hope for the future.” The project will be produced by USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies along with the Shoah Foundation, the nonprofit founded by director Steven Spielberg in 1994.
“Max, ‘our Max,’ is something else — he’s just so very special and anyone who has ever spent even a minute with him knows that. He never stops for a minute and now, with this technology, he never will,” said Dallas Holocaust Museum President and CEO Mary Pat Higgins. “His responses were phenomenal and incredibly moving and to see his memory at work is something we all envied. These are subjects, really difficult times, and memories of close to 80 years ago, and yet he held strong and fulfilled the mission we all have.”
Higgins, who was present for much of the filming, said everyone involved could feel the gravity with which Glauben understands the opportunity and the responsibility to impart wisdom that he feels — and that he lives. His answers were deliberate, thoughtful and sincere, but all given with his own brand of personality and heart, with the twinkle that is always in his eye, with the consciousness of the moment and with his ever-positive impact.
“Whatever I can share and whoever I can reach so that this is a better world because some of us gave testimony, that’s why we’re doing it,” said Glauben, one of many who has left a letter placed in a time capsule for the new building. “Maybe something I say will change a heart from hate, from ignorance, from evil. It’s about making sure people know what happened. People need to hear and know that it did happen — and that it should never happen again. Never again.”