At age 15, Ann Signett was surrounded by war. Every morning she would go out on her balcony and watch B-17 bombers as they flew over her hometown of Rome during World War II.
Knowing that German occupation meant death for his Jewish family, Signett’s father led them to the mountain village of Alvito, 100 miles away. There they were sheltered by a Catholic family for 10 months.
Signett’s story is just one of the personal histories shared with more than 100 students through UCLA’s student-run Bearing Witness program and the Fiat Lux seminar, “Bearing Witness: Interviewing Holocaust Survivors.”
Bearing Witness hosted four sessions at UCLA Hillel during which students met one-on-one with a group of 25 survivors. The students listen, learn, record and “bear witness” to the unique histories presented to them.
With every passing year, there is urgency on the part of survivors to get their message out. The oldest is 105 and the youngest is 76.
Signett, now 89 and surrounded by UCLA students, shared her story with the hope that it will never be forgotten.
“I survived because I was hidden,” she said. “But there are survivors who survived the death camps. I was never in a death camp. I was the lucky one.”
A group of 20 students learned more about the Holocaust as part of a Fiat Lux seminar taught by professor Todd Presner, who is the Sady and Ludwig Kahn Director at the UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies.
Presner has partnered with the Bearing Witness program for the last 10 years because he wants to engage students early in their academic careers. As part of his seminar, freshmen discuss historical issues and oral histories, and visit the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust.