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DATE: August 9, 2004

The Henry and Mala Dorfman family makes major gift to support archive of Holocaust survivors' oral histories at UM-Dearborn

DEARBORN---Joel Dorfman never heard the whole story of his father's experiences during the Holocaust until he stumbled across the Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

Joel Dorfman, with his father's portrait.

"I had heard parts of my father's story, but not the entire story," Dorfman said.

Since learning about the project, the Dorfman family has made a major gift to help the project, and is encouraging more members of the community to become familiar with the project and to support its efforts.

The Dorfman family recently gave $100,000 from the Henry S. and Mala Dorfman Family Foundation to support continued work on the archive and to help its preservation and dissemination to students, researchers and the public. Dorfman, a resident of Bloomfield Hills, is managing partner of North Star Partners. His father, Henry Dorfman, who died in 2001, was chairman and CEO of Thorn Apple Valley.

"I vaguely remember my father, Henry Dorfman, having a conversation with Professor Bolkosky, but never knew he'd spent so much time and energy in such an interview about his Holocaust years," Joel Dorfman said. "My dad's typical, matter-of-fact response when asked where he'd been all day, was something like 'I went to the office, had lunch with a friend, met with Sid Bolkosky, and came home.'"

Sidney Bolkosky, professor of history at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, has interviewed more than 150 survivors of the Nazi Holocaust of the Jews in the last 25 years, and has recorded about 330 hours of audiotapes and 60 hours of video.

"The Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive exists to maintain a collection of oral testimonies of those who survived the Holocaust and make these widely accessible for educational purposes," Bolkosky said. "Through library loans and via the World Wide Web, we make the oral testimonies and transcriptions available to researchers, students and the general public."

The project is working to raise $1.5 million over the next four years to support efforts to interview more survivors and to publish and disseminate the transcripts of the interviews so they will be widely available to the public.

Joel Dorfman said he never saw a transcript or heard anything more about the time his father spent with Bolkosky until a friend recently spotted the archive on the Voice/Vision Web site. "I clicked on, saw the extensive text and heard my father's voice," Dorfman said.

"To hear his voice when he was in the prime of his life talking about wartime experiences was remarkable - and eerie, especially since he'd been gone about two and a half years," Dorfman said. "I was so grateful this existed and that he'd taken the time to do this; and overwhelmed.

"I listened a while, then notified family, telling them how valuable the archive is, not just to the Dorfmans and our children, but to others to be able to access this kind of information," he said.

Already involved in Holocaust survivor activities, including helping to provide psychosocial counseling services through the Program for Holocaust Survivors and their Families, Joel Dorfman contacted Bolkosky to compliment him on the quality, depth and detail of the interview. He also volunteered to help sustain the program through fund raising and other activities.

These days Joel contributes a significant amount of time and energy toward helping to raise contributions to finance the program's operations. "I'd really like to see families of the interviewed maintain their loved ones' archives in perpetuity," he said.

"These are unique individuals who survived out of pure luck or because of certain qualities that allowed them to perpetuate their existence against the worst kinds of odds," Dorfman said. "To hear them is to be inspired; what they overcame in the context of their horrible history, and still to go on to build families and businesses, reconstruct their lives, even strengthen their religious beliefs. They are wonderful examples to others who've been oppressed."

Dorfman is well aware of the time constraints inherent to the oral history project. "This is an aging group, so we're working against the clock," he said. "We've got to get their stories before time runs out. My father obviously wanted people to know, even though he couldn't bring himself to tell the story to his family.

"And now, my mother, who also rarely spoke about her experiences during the war, now says that she's ready to be interviewed," Dorfman said. "It is important that others hear about the sadness and the difficulties and learn why we should do everything possible so that something like the Holocaust should never happen again--to anyone of any color, religion or nationality."

The Web site for the project is available at http://holocaust.umd.umich.edu/. For information about how to make a gift to the project, contact Diane Nye Mattick at UM-Dearborn's Office of Institutional Advancement at (313) 593-5504.

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