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Holocaust Survivors Get Flashy Therapy

posted 19 Mar 2013, 19:28 by Mpelembe   [ updated 19 Mar 2013, 19:28 ]

Holocaust survivors in Brooklyn undergo multi-sensory therapy in an interactive room reminiscent of the disco era.

 NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORKUNITED STATES (MARCH 19, 2013) (REUTERS) -  Holocaust survivors in Brooklyn, New York have a new space at a local community center dedicated to help them ease the atrocious memories of World War Two.

On Tuesday (March 19) the doors of Minnie's Place, the multi sensory therapy room at the Hebrew Educational Society was open to Dora Kupferberg, who relaxed under the cascading strands of colorful fiber optic lights.

Kupferberg, 89, was born in 1923 in Poland. In 1940 she was sent to Parschnitz concentration camp to work as a machinist and escaped the gas chamber several times by the skin of her teeth.

While the memory is still fresh after nearly seven decades, she said that she enjoyed the soothing music and the trippy lights of the therapy room, that could easily be mistaken for a disco venue.

"The room is beautiful," Kupferberg told Reuters.

"(In) the room I feel like I am in heaven here. Because I am the second time here, it makes me like I am a free person. And it makes me feel like I am a free person here, and I am not anymore by the Nazis. And I am not anymore afraid that I am going to the gas chamber, where they wanted to take me."

Danielle Pomerantz is the social services director at the center, and explained the therapeutic qualities of the space.

"The multi sensory room is a room called 'snoezelen' in Dutch. That's where it's originally created and there are many different activities that can be done inside the room. And all the activities are geared towards these different senses."

By using different lighting effects, color, sounds, music and scents the snoezelen room gives its occupier control over their environment.

It was originally developed in the Netherlands in the 1970's to help people with autism or developmental disabilities.

Pomerantz was also helping 87-year-old survivor Mania Kolin, who like Kupferberg is a Polish Jew.

Poland was home to Europe's largest Jewish community of some 3.3 million people before World War Two. Most of them perished in the Holocaust, and Kolin witnessed many deaths in the camps.

She explained that despite her calm exterior she is always very tense.

But when asked what she saw in her own reflection on the mirrored ceiling, she replied: "Blue sky."

"It's a very difficult feeling you know. I don't have always such a feeling and now I feel very relaxed," she added.

Mascha Girschin is the executive director of "The Blue Card", a nonprofit organization that provides direct financial assistance to needy Holocaust survivors. It partnered with the Hebrew Educational Society to bring about Minnie's Place as a pilot program, and has plans to roll it out on a national scale.

"Many of the survivors that we've worked with have never tried anything to, in order to assist them psychologically, emotionally and even physically," Girschin explained.

"So as something that hasn't been tried before we are so pleased with the results. And from the feed-back that we have been receiving, it's just been very pleasing to see."

While the therapy eases the painful memories for a brief moment, Holocaust survivor Rose Kirszenzweig said that she would never forget.

"You don't forget those things, you don't really forget those things," she said.

The Blue Card estimates that more than 75,000 Holocaust survivors live in theUnited States and Brooklyn is home to one the largest communities of survivors, of about 15,000.