Suzanne Berliner Weiss

On the Importance of Solidarity and Social Justice

Interview with Holocaust Survivor and Social Activist, Suzanne Berliner Weiss

Jessica Singer

The outbreak of COVID-19 has caused stress, anxiety, and turmoil for citizens worldwide.

COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate; across the globe, people must join together to take care of one another no matter who they are, where they live, and whether they are healthy or vulnerable.   

While responses to the pandemic may vary, dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak will demand the kind of solidarity that Holocaust survivor, author, and social activist Suzanne Berliner Weiss advocates for.

Weiss released a memoir published by Fernwood in Oct. 2019 titled, Holocaust to Resistance, My Journey. The novel tells the extraordinary tale of her experience surviving the Holocaust, and her continued dedication to social activism.

Weiss was scheduled to visit the London Public Library for a book launch and signing event, and she also planned to speak to students at Western University earlier this week. While these events have been postponed due to increasing COVID-19 restrictions, the issues and topics that Weiss raises are highly relevant to students and community members.

Weiss was born to Jewish parents in Paris in 1941, and hid from the murderous Nazi regime on a farm in France. After surviving the war, Weiss lived in various orphanages, where she learned the values of social justice, peace, and equality.

“The people who took care of us in the orphanages were former resistance activists, and they taught me the value of solidarity, and unity, of peace, of global unity, that inspired their anti-Nazi activism,” explained Weiss.

“And I embraced these principles, which have guided my life.”

After being adopted by a Jewish couple in New York, conflicts with her adopted father led Weiss to engage in an ongoing struggle for women’s rights.

“He said, you know, I had to be a woman who was seeking a mate and I had to procreate, and I had to take care of a husband and children,” comments Weiss.

“I objected to that and we had such great arguments about it that I decided to run away from home.”

Weiss’s tumultuous experiences as a young child taught her the values of friendship, solidarity, and resistance. At the young age of 17, Weiss became a supporter of women’s rights, civil liberties, and freedom for African American citizens.

But her journey is not over yet. Nearing 80-years-old, Weiss continues to spread the values of justice, peace, and reconciliation as a staunch social activist. While these core, human values have helped address some of the most horrific crimes against humanity based on race, colour, gender, and religion, the struggle isn't over.

Weiss continues to fight for Indigenous solidarity, climate justice, Palestinian rights, and other social justice issues by speaking with various faith communities, activist groups, and University students.

And she invites us to join her in the fight for world peace and human rights.

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Listen to Radio Western’s exclusive interview with Weiss, where she explains more about her memoir, how she became involved in the struggle for social justice, and how we can build solidarity to fight against climate change and human injustice.

Be sure to check out Suzanne Berliner Weiss’s blog, to learn more about her memoir, her story, and her work as a social activist. https://suzanneberlinerweiss.com

Weiss is also a member of Independent Jewish Voices, a grassroots organization advocating for justice and peace worldwide. Check out https://www.ijvcanada.org to learn more about their work and how to get involved.

Also, be sure to check out Weiss’s memoir, Holocaust to Resistance, My Journey published by Fernwood. The memoir is available for purchase at https://fernwoodpublishing.ca/book/holocaust-to-resistance-my-journey.