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Preserving the stories of West Michigan Survivors

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Pestka Art & Poetry Contest

The Pestka Family, in memory of their father and grandfather, Henry Pestka, a Holocaust survivor, is proud to begin a new tradition in West Michigan – to bring Holocaust awareness and education to West Michigan students in grades 6-12 through an art and poetry contest. This contest is designed for students who have completed the Michigan state requirement on Holocaust education and enables them the opportunity to process and reflect on the concepts they learned through writing or art.


Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM) supports the Pestka Art & Poetry Contest with two images from its collection:
1. Bohušovice Train Station at Theresienstadt Concentration Camp, Czechoslovakia LINK 2. Execution Wall, Auschwitz Extermination Camp, Poland LINK

The Stories of Holocaust Survivors

Explore the collection of Interactive Maps, Interviews & Photos.

Claire & Chaim Zaidenworem

Alex & Susette Tauber

L'dor V'dor: An Eternal Tree

Henry Pestka survived the horrors of Auschwitz. Pestka and the millions of Jews murdered during the Holocaust are now remembered with the dedication of the sculpture, Ways to Say Goodbye. There we talk with the sculptor and family unveiling West Michigan’s first public Holocaust memorial. L’dor V’dor explores art as education and its generational commitment to exposing atrocities against humanity.

“As time goes on and memories of the Holocaust fade, it is important to remember the barbarity human beings are capable of"

- Steve Pestka, Son of Holocaust Survivor, Henry Pestka (ז״ל)

Picture to the right, Henry Pestka in prison uniform

Picture 1-5: Ways to Say by artist Ariel Schlesinger
Picture 6: Front, Ariel Schlesinger, Back, Linda Pestka (Daugther of Henry Pestka)

Ways to Say Goodbye

The Jewish Federation of Grand Rapids received a generous gift from the Pestka Family in memory of their father, Henry, and the millions of Jews who perished in the Holocaust, for Grand Rapids’s first Holocaust Memorial, located at the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. 

This sculpture is dedicated to the memory of Holocaust survivor Henry Pestka (1919-2013) and the 6 million Jews who perished in the Holocaust, and honors the brave Holocaust survivors who settled and thrived in West Michigan.

“Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park is highly honored and very pleased to receive this significant and meaningful gift to acquire Ariel Schlesinger’s monumental sculpture Ways to Say Goodbye. The sculpture will be dedicated in memory of Henry Pestka and the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust and serve to promote peace. We are deeply grateful for this gift adding such an important work of art to our Permanent Collection. Our members and guests will forever benefit from this extraordinary gift.”

- David Hooker, Former President & CEO Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

ADL Education

ADL Education is a leading provider of anti-bias programs, trainings and resources for K-12 schools and college campuses. Our goal is to empower students and educators to challenge bias in themselves, others and society as well as promote allyship, inclusion and equity.  We also have programs and resources to help students stand up to antisemitism as well as explore and critically reflect on the lessons of the Holocaust.

"What hurts the victim most is not the cruelty of the oppressor, but the silence of the bystander.”

- Elie Wiesel, Romanian-born American writer, professor, political activist, Nobel laureate, and Holocaust survivor. He authored 57 books, written mostly in French and English, including Night, a work based on his experiences as a Jewish prisoner in the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps.

Eli Wiesel, 1928-2016

About the Project

The West Michigan Holocaust Memorial, a website of the Jewish Federation of Grand Rapids, seeks to build a collection of stories on the survivors of the Holocaust that settled in West Michigan, and ensure its accessibility through preservation and digitization. The collection of stories serves as an educational teaching tool for the new Holocaust sculpture, Ways to Say Goodbye by artist Ariel Schlesinger, at the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. It is our hope that the website will grow and become a resource for educators and our community on Holocaust education and programs.  In addition, the website serves as proof of the Holocaust, countering those who deny or manipulate history. 

Mort, Raleigh & Edward (ז״ל) Finkelstein