Denver couple on a mission to photograph every Holocaust survivor in the U.S. have already snapped 735 of the remaining 100,000 in the country
PUBLISHED: 17:20 EST, 30 January 2019 | UPDATED: 17:52 EST, 30 January 2019
A Denver couple has launched a mission to photograph every single Holocaust survivor in the United States.
John Pregulman and his wife Amy Israel Pregulman started out by helping a friend take pictures of Holocaust survivors in Chicago five years ago and it later turned into their life-long passion project.
John started out photographing 65 survivors over the course of three days in Chicago then turned his lens towards the rest of the nation, curious about the estimated 100,000 Holocaust survivors living in the U.S.
Since then, he and his wife have crossed 36 cities and documented 735 survivors.
John Pregulman and his wife Amy Israel are seeking to photograph every single Holocaust survivor in the U.S. So far they’ve snapped 735 survivors across 36 cities and they hang up their portraits in their Denver office (above)
In action: John Pregulman and his wife Amy pictured above snapping Holocaust survivor Estare Weiser and her husband David on January 9
‘I became completely overwhelmed by these amazing, courageous people. But we’re going to get as many as we can,’ Pregulman said to the Denver Post.
‘We have this feeling of: Why wait? There’s no time,’ Amy said to the paper.
The photos will not go to any exhibit or gallery, in fact they only go to the survivors themselves.
The only other place where they’re all displayed is Pregulman’s personal office in Denver, where the walls are lined from top to bottom with the portraits.
For the couple, taking these touching photographs has a deep meaning – it’s a chance for survivors to recount their stories and journeys into the States.
‘Many of these people don’t get the opportunity to be seen or heard,’ Amy said.
‘Their biggest fears are that they’ll be forgotten,’ John echoed.
And the couple have learned a lot during the journey. They’ve learned to go for small cameras as big ones can be intimidating and for color prints as black and white photographs look too eerie.
‘I say what an honor it’s been to take their photos. I tell them what remarkable and strong people they are,’ John said on his methodology.
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The couple’s latest subject – and 735th photograph – was Estare Weiser, the mother of Colorado’s new attorney general Phil Weiser.
She is the youngest Holocaust survivor the couple has photographed.
She was born in the Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany that was liberated just one day later on April 13, 1945.
Weiser said that her mother didn’t realize she was pregnant until she was five months in and managed to send a message to the her father who was held at a men’s camp.
‘She said, “You have reason to live,”‘ Weiser said.
‘I don’t know how she did it. I don’t know how she survived being pregnant. My mother always said, “The most important thing you need is luck.” And there were a lot of lucky breaks that she had that she was able to survive,’ she added.
After sharing her story she told the couple: ‘I think I’m getting more out of this than I expected.’
‘We haven’t had a true photo of us maybe since our kids were married. There’s something really nice about having photographs and memories,’ she said to the paper as she posed with her husband of nearly 52 years.
One of the most profound interviews for the couple was photographing a Holocaust survivor in Orlando, Florida.
That’s where they realized the severe destitution so many survivors live in today. Today 30 percent to 35 percent of Holocaust survivors in America – about 35,000 people – live in poverty.
They give the photos to the survivors and save a copy for their Denver office, a myriad of portraits pictured above on the walls of their office
In 2015 they founded KAVOD, a nonprofit that provides emergency aid to Holocaust survivors living in poverty to help the 30 to 35 percent of survivors living in poverty in the U.S.
The Orlando woman John interviewed welcomed him into her home and offered him something to eat. Upon opening her fridge, John was shocked to find it practically empty.
‘She told me, “This month I had to spend my grocery money to take care of a broken air conditioner,”‘ John said.
‘We found that the survivors, when they don’t have enough money, they do without food. Because that’s what they’ve experienced,’ he added.
To aid the staggering number of impoverished survivors, the couple founded KAVOD in 2015, a nonprofit that provides emergency aid to Holocaust survivors living in poverty.
‘We came up with the name because “kavod” means dignity, honor and respect in Hebrew. We felt that any human being deserves to be treated that way,’ Amy said.
The charity hands out gift cards to survivors for necessary goods like groceries and medicine, and 100 percent of the raised funds go directly to those in need.
‘It’s been a godsend for us. They are providing a service no one else is,’ John Keyser, a spokesman for Jewish Family Service in Denver said.
For the Pregulman’s, it’s been a life changing experience photographing and meeting so many survivors scattered across the country.
The couple try to stay in touch with the people they document. John noted that several survivors have passed away since their photos were taken.
He says survivors he met who emigrated to America went on to pursue very different life trajectories. One became a Playboy bunny, another speaks in maximum security prisons helping inmates, and a 103-year-old from North Carolina sang opera for the king and queen of Holland.
‘I’m just in awe. I’m blown away by these people,’ Amy said on the stories they’ve heard.
This article originally posted on January 30, 2019.
View the original article here.