HGI Center Earns Grant to Expand Ziering Collection

Herman Ziering was a Holocaust survivor and justice seeker after he fled a concentration camp.

Concentration camp uniform hanging in O'Malley LibraryThe Holocaust, Genocide and Interfaith (HGI) Education Center at Manhattan College has received a substantial grant from the Claims Conference to help digitize and create an online exhibit of documents from the lives of Lea and Herman Ziering, a Holocaust survivor and justice seeker. 

In the fall of 2019, the HGI Center opened an exhibit showcasing the legacy of Herman and his wife, Lea. 

Their daughter, Debby Ziering, offered the HGI Center the items for the Ziering collection. She also recently provided a $15,000 gift to the exhibit through her foundation, the Isaac and Cilly Ziering Foundation, Inc.

Herman Ziering survived the Kaiserwald concentration camp, near what is now Riga, Latvia. Lea and her mother survived by passing as Christians as they traveled from Sarajevo to Split, and then went to New York. Herman became vice president of the New York-based Society of Survivors of the Riga Ghetto and a member of the Anti-Defamation League’s task force on Nazi war criminals until his death in 2005. Lea (Ternbach) Ziering studied at design school and then became a first-class hostess for Pan American Airlines.

Herman Ziering wanted justice. His activities as a Nazi hunter contributed to the exposure, deportation and eventual trial of Latvian Nazi collaborator Bolislavs Maikovskis, the deportation of war criminals hiding in the United States, and an increased awareness among survivors and their families of the existence of Nazi war criminals living in the United States.

“The exhibit is dedicated to honoring the memory of Lea and Herman Ziering and other survivors who were justice seekers,” Mehnaz Afridi, Ph.D., director of the HGI Center and an associate professor of religious studies at Manhattan College, said at the time of the public opening. “It’s appropriate to provide their stories a wider public hearing and to preserve them for future scholars.” 

Afridi, a Muslim woman who teaches about the Holocaust at a Catholic college, also worked to ensure that the exhibit includes rescuers – Muslim Albanians and Iranians, and a Lasallian, Brother Gabriel Boile, FSC – who assisted Jews in an effort to escape the Holocaust. The Center is committed to building bridges across faiths through the stories of genocide. 

The HGI Center strives to do program events on the Holocaust, genocide, and Interfaith work across the nation and Internationally. If you would like to donate to the Center and its many programs and exhibits, please visit https://connect.manhattan.edu/giving and indicate your gift is for the Holocaust, Genocide and Interfaith Center.

By Pete McHugh