Deborah Fripp
Teaching the Holocaust through stories of Jewish Resilience

Tying the Threads of Compassion

Dr. Mehak Burza illuminates the power of storytelling to forge bonds of empathy.

By guest blogger Dr. Mehak Burza

In the intricate tapestry of life, our journey often takes unexpected turns, leading us down paths we never imagined traversing. For me, this journey began in the realm of science, where the empirical and analytical reigned supreme. Yet it was within the pages of English Literature that I discovered a transformative power, where words became windows into the deepest recesses of the human experience.

My fascination deepened as I delved into the realm of war literature during my Masters studies. There, amidst the narratives of conflict and courage, I began to perceive a profound interplay between science and literature, particularly in the exploration of trauma. It was through my exploration of PTSD that the haunting spectre of the Holocaust emerged, casting its long shadow over my academic pursuits.

Driven by a thirst for understanding, I embarked on a journey into the heart of darkness, immersing myself in the study of Holocaust literature. My PhD in Holocaust studies became not just an academic endeavour but also a deeply personal quest to bear witness to the unspeakable horrors of history. With each page turned, I felt the weight of history pressing upon my heart, compelling me to delve deeper into the abyss of human cruelty and resilience. Through interviews with survivors and discussions with trauma theorists, I sought to illuminate the indomitable resilience of the human spirit in the face of unimaginable suffering.

It was during this time that I stumbled upon Teach the Shoah (TTS) and connected with three wonderful women, Deborah, Lynne and Jennifer through social media. I found a beacon of hope in this serendipitous discovery that would forever alter the course of my academic and personal journey. I found myself standing upon the threshold of a new frontier. Instantly, I felt a profound connection to the genre of storytelling, recognizing its potential as a bridge between past and present, between the living and the dead. In the narratives of survivors and their descendants, I glimpsed the transformative power of storytelling to cultivate empathy and connectedness in a world fractured by division and discord.

Studying the Holocaust is not merely an intellectual pursuit; it is a moral imperative, a solemn duty to remember the past in order to safeguard the future. In bearing witness to the atrocities of history, we confront not only the darkest depths of human depravity, but also a symbol of optimism of courage and resilience. Through storytelling, I believe we honour the memory of those who perished and ensure that their voices are never silenced.

The Holocaust serves as a stark reminder of the consequences of unchecked hatred and prejudice, but it also offers lessons in compassion and solidarity. As I listened to the stories of survivors, I was struck by their unwavering determination to bear witness, to speak truth to power, and to ensure that the horrors they endured would never be forgotten. Their resilience in the face of unimaginable adversity is a testament to the enduring power of the human spirit to overcome even the darkest of times. For me, the study of the Holocaust surpasses mere academic inquiry; it is a sacred duty, a testament to the resilience of the human spirit in the face of unspeakable tragedy.

In a world plagued by intolerance and injustice, storytelling serves as a guiding light inspiring a journey towards a kinder tomorrow by bringing texts to life. In assuming the position of a board member for Teach the Shoah alongside my involvement within the interfaith community, I am increasingly positioned not only as a narrator but also as a witness. Through the act of bearing witness, we acknowledge the suffering of others and affirm our shared humanity. In sharing stories of survival and resilience, we cultivate empathy and solidarity, forging bonds that surpass the confines of time, space, and ideology. It is through the prism of storytelling that we bear witness to the collective memory of humanity, each tale a fragment of a larger, shared narrative. In a world fractured by division and discord, it is through the act of storytelling that we find solace and solidarity, forging bonds of empathy that transcend the spatial and temporal boundaries.

As I reflect on my own journey, I am reminded of the words of Elie Wiesel, himself a survivor of the Holocaust: “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” In choosing to bear witness, to speak out against injustice, and to embrace the transformative power of storytelling, we honour the legacy of those who came before us and pave the way for a more just and compassionate world. In my storytelling journey, as I narrate the excerpts, I find both solace and sorrow as the stories etch themselves into the very fabric of my being. Through the alchemy of storytelling, the ashes of despair in the hallowed pages of survivor testimonies are transformed into flames of remembrance, illuminating the path towards a more compassionate and interconnected world.

Dr. Mehak Burza is one of the Board of Directors and the Head of Global Holocaust and Religious Studies as well as the program director of Holocaust Studies at The Global Center for Religious Research (Denver, United States). She is also a board member of Teach the Shoah where she is involved with Holocaust storytelling and the interfaith community.

Dr. Burza’s Ph.D. thesis entitled Literary Representations of the Holocaust: An Assessment focuses on the gendered response to the Holocaust from the vantage points of trauma, memory, and identity. As an Assistant Professor of English, she has taught in various colleges of the University of Delhi. She was a selected scholar-in-residence for the ISGAP antisemitism workshop held at the University of Oxford. She has both international and national publications to her credit.

Mehak is also the communications manager of the Strife Blog and Journal, Department of War Studies, London, United Kingdom, copy editor at Journal of International Women’s Studies at Bridgewater State University, Massachusetts, USA, and an editorial board member of Digital Holocaust Studies at Sussex, United Kingdom. Holding several adjunct positions internationally enables her to organize various international conferences.

About the Author
Dr. Deborah Fripp is the president of the Teach the Shoah Foundation. Her website ( provides resources on commemorating, teaching, and understanding the Holocaust for communities, families, and educators. You can sign up to hear about her new blogs at
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