A dozen descendants of Holocaust survivors met at a Char Bar in the District on Aug. 14, as part of a recurring luncheon for the online survivor network group Allgenerations.
The worldwide network is designed as an educational resource for sharing information on the Holocaust and keeping the survivor community connected, according to Serena Woolrich, a Washington resident and the group’s founder. As part of its mission, the nonprofit hosts in-person meets to foster connection between survivors, their families and those who share in their experience.
Woolrich, the daughter of a Holocaust survivor and a U.S.-born parent, founded Allgenerations in 1998, and said the group always meets at a kosher restaurant because of tradition.
Following the luncheon, Woolrich said the most asked question she got from other 2gs, as the second-generation children of survivors are called, was, “Were there many 3gs there?”
Woolrich said that at events, “normally it’s 2gs and maybe you’ll get a 3g,” or a grandchild of survivors.
According to Woolrich, active participation from 3gs has increased over the last decade. Network groups like 3gNY and 3gDC have popped up with the explicit purpose of fostering the participation of the grandchildren of survivors. Members are trained to speak at events in efforts to keep the histories of their ancestors alive.
“By the grace of God, every 3g that is born is like an ‘Aha!’ to Hitler. That we’re still here, we’re still alive,” Woolrich said. “That is a major accomplishment seeing them take interest.”
At the D.C. luncheon, Woolrich said she even met a 4g, or the great-grandchild of a Holocaust survivor.
“They should be interested, this is their background,” Woolrich said. “This is their story. They should be thankful they’re alive, their grandparents made it out and survived.”
Woolrich said it remains of the utmost importance for future generations to keep their survivor ancestors’ legacies alive. “It’s vital,” she said.
Allgenerations aims to make the world feel a little smaller and a little more connected for the survivor community. Every town that Woolrich finds herself in, she strives to put together an in-person meet up.
“I had always been involved in 2g groups,” Woolrich said. “I saw we liked to be connected.”
In the 1990s, email was the new tool in the box, bringing the ability to connect multitudes no matter where they might be in the world. Woolrich noticed some emails circulating within the network of survivors seeking family or friends they had lost contact with.
In the beginning, Woolrich would compile these requests and send out an email blast once a week to make connections between loved ones.
More than 20 years later, she still gets hundreds of requests and makes positive matches about once a month. “I can’t even begin to tell you how meaningful that is, for a survivor to find a relative or child,” Woolrich said.
Woolrich spoke about recently receiving an email from a woman in Florida who had been a Holocaust survivor from Brussels, Belgium. The woman asked Woolrich for help in finding her childhood friend, whom she hadn’t seen since the war.
Equipped with a semi-uncommon last name, Woolrich reached out to a young attorney in Ohio by the same surname, thinking it would be a longshot. By chance, the man confirmed the person they were looking for was his aunt who lived in New Jersey.
Woolrich contacted the Florida woman to share the good news. “The first question she asked me was, ‘Is she still alive?’” After confirmation, the two connected the very next day, catching up after all the years over a four-hour phone call.
“That’s the greatest thing I’ve ever done,” Woolrich said.