File photo: Visitors light memorial candles during the annual Names Reading ceremony to commemorate those who perished in the Holocaust, in the Hall of Remembrance at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum on May 2, 2016, in Washington. (© Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

January 27th is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a day to remember the six million Jews and millions of others targeted for murder by the Nazi regime. Their tragic histories continue to affect the lives of survivors and their descendants.

Secretary Blinken is among them as the stepson of a Holocaust survivor. Here at the State Department, we have other colleagues who are descendants or family members of Holocaust survivors. Here are some of their stories.

a woman smiles in front of a painting
Monica Schneider in Jakarta. [Photo courtesy of Monica Schneider]
Monica Schneider is an Assistant Regional Security Officer, U.S. Embassy Jakarta

“My grandfather Ernst Oppenheimer, whom I called “Opa,” was a Holocaust survivor who fled Germany via France. His father traveled to France but remained behind as his children departed for the United States.  

Opa was drafted into the U.S. Army on arrival. Later, he guarded a POW camp in Monroe, North Carolina, where his native German made him popular with the Nazi prisoners. One POW made him an oil painting of cats that now hangs in my home. The painting wasn’t Opa’s only Army souvenir; his service entitled him to U.S. citizenship. My grandmother and her parents (all Holocaust survivors) got their U.S. citizenship thanks to Opa.  

I only learned their stories 60 years later when I found receipts for tickets to the United States still tucked in Opa’s wallet. These stories are part of me and led me to public service where our work and actions have an impact and protect American citizens abroad.”  


Jonathan Shrier sits at a table and lights a candle. There are other candles on the table and a U.S. flag behind him.
Jonathan Shrier, Foreign Service Officer [State Department photo]
Jonathan Shrier is a Foreign Service Officer serving at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations

“When my father and his parents and grandmother escaped from Poland, there were several intersections with diplomacy.  My grandfather had a friend at the Swedish embassy in Lithuania who tipped him off to Japanese Consul Chiune Sugihara and Dutch Honorary Consul Jan Zwartendijk in Kaunas, Lithuania. They issued the ‘visas for life’ that enabled my family, like others, to travel across the Trans-Siberian railway and then to Yokohama, Japan, where they boarded one of the last cruise ships heading to the United States filled with refugees along with foreign diplomats leaving Japan as tensions rose in the Pacific. 

While waiting for U.S. visas for the family, my grandfather served as the commercial attaché at the Polish Government-in-Exile’s embassy in Mexico City. My decision to become an American diplomat was deeply influenced by my family’s resilience and courage and that of the diplomats who helped them along the way.”

Michelle Schein holds a photo of her grandparents, Holocaust survivors from Poland. She is standing in the lobby of the State Department, with country flags hanging behind her.
Michelle Schein holds a photo of her grandparents, Holocaust survivors from Poland. [Photo courtesy of Michelle Schein]
Michelle Schein serves as Congressional Advisor for the Office of Global Women’s Issues

“I am fortunate to be the granddaughter of two Holocaust survivors whose harrowing stories directly impacted my motivation to become a public servant and more specifically, to work on foreign affairs issues. My grandmother, whom we call Bubbe, has recorded her story for the U.S. Holocaust Museum Archives. 

At age 9, Bubbe was caught in the midst of Germany’s invasion of Poland. She and her mother were imprisoned in Auschwitz-Birkenau and then sent to work on the German railroads. In 1945, they were forced to walk to Czechoslovakia with nothing but their basic linen uniform on their backs. It was the American Army that would eventually save their lives.  

I honor my grandmother’s legacy by working to advance global women’s issues and communicating to stakeholders the challenges that prevent women and girls from becoming all that they can be.”

Marianne Weiner sits in the middle of her two daughters, who are each holding photos of their great grandparents.
Marianne Weiner and her daughters with photos of their great grandparents. [Photo courtesy of Marianne Weiner]
Marianne Weiner is a Human Resources Specialist for the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs 

“My grandfather and his father were Holocaust survivors. They lived in Vienna, Austria where the Nazis closed my grandfather’s school and his father’s shoe stores. After Kristallnacht, my great grandfather sent my grandfather by himself at age 16 to New York where eventually he joined the U.S. Army.  After the war, he earned his degree, and while working at the Naval Research Laboratory, discovered a Lunar Bulge on the Moon. His father escaped to Ecuador before he was able to enter the United States and reunite with my grandfather.

I was lucky to know my grandfather. His story as a Holocaust survivor sparked my life-long interest in international foreign affairs.”

U.S. Department of State

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