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Woman who Records People’s Lives

Miriam Dubi-Gazan ... memory is a subject that interests her

Miriam Dubi-Gazan, the creator of Docostory, a firm which produces autobiographies, was born in Amsterdam two months before the end of World War II. Luckily, her parents survived and remained in Holland. She came to Israel at the age of 17 to live on a kibbutz, and decided to study Jewish history. Since she speaks seven languages, it was easy to find work in an Absorption Center in Beersheba. She eventually became the director and also learned Yiddish there.

Twenty years ago, she awoke with the idea of documenting history by interviewing people, listening to their life stories and writing about them. She was most interested in stories of Holocaust survivors and so she started a business in her home, doing the documentary work herself.

One of the ways she prepared for this undertaking was by taking lessons in archery and becoming a champion in that sport. She said that in order to succeed, one has to follow sequential steps. She compares that to her interviewing skills, which she developed by following certain prescribed steps as well.

Memory is a subject that interests her and she's learned how to draw memories out of people, helping them to remember their stories. She has subsequently studied journalism and gerontology.

To document Holocaust stories, some of which are also used by Yad Vashem, they must comply with prescribed standards. However, Miriam has documented many others and is especially interested in the Ethiopian and Russian experiences. In fact, Miriam was there when the first group of Ethiopians came to Beersheba, and was instrumental in their absorption process.

Miriam, who has compiled many documented stories, now has a staff of freelance writers, graphic designers and printers. She is very proud of the work she has done recording history. In 1998, she was knighted by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands in appreciation of her writing about the Dutch who saved Jews during the Holocaust.

A very interesting story she told was about a 90-year-old doctor, also from Amsterdam, who coincidentally had studied at the same Jewish school as Miriam, with the same teachers. He had survived the Holocaust hidden by four Christian families. So impressed was he with their goodness that he decided to convert to Christianity. He went on to study medicine with other converts like himself. At that time he met a Jewish woman who had also converted to Christianity. They were married in the church. When their first son was born, his wife held the baby in her arms and said: "I want him to be brought up as a Jew".

Miriam interviewed him many years later in a religious Jewish old age home in Jerusalem.

About five years ago, she interviewed a 95-year-old man born in Aleppo but raised in Alexandria. His parents had moved with him to Manchester, England. During the Blitz, he was drafted into the army. While walking one day, he heard a woman crying and screaming, and came to her rescue - he later married her. After the war they moved to New York and are presently living in Pisgat Ze'ev outside of Jerusalem.

During the interview, his wife sat immobile and non-communicative. When the husband got up and started to play some Chopin and a Strauss waltz on their piano, amazingly, the old woman awoke from her stupor and started to dance.

Miriam Dubi-Gazan is an experienced observer of the human condition, a most qualified professional to help preserve life stories for future generations. She has successfully been producing these books for over twenty years, fulfilling a goal that she continues to achieve. 



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Saturday, 02 December 2023

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