Monica Friedlander's emotions oscillate between recollections about her father. Her somber face cracks a smile when Friedlander discusses the bedtime stories her father, Erwin, told her about stars when she was growing up.
"He used to say 'See that star right there? It might not even be there anymore,' " Friedlander said with a grin.
But when Friedlander recalls her father's final days in the hospital nearly a decade ago when his medication caused hallucinations, sent him into a panic and made him cry out about the Nazis beating him up, her lips tremble as she fights back tears.
"That was the first time I saw the emotion," said Friedlander, about her father's experience during the Holocaust. "He talked about it and was open but in a nonemotional way. That was the first time I realized what he lived with his whole life."
The Livermore woman's story about her father's experience in a Nazi labor camp in Romania in World War II will be one of at least seven local stories on display when the Museum on Main in Pleasanton on Wednesday opens the photography exhibit "Multiply by Six Million: Portraits and Stories of Holocaust Survivors."
The exhibit features Evvy Eisen's photos of Holocaust survivors living in California. Eisen's exhibit has been put together over the past 15 years and includes not only portraits of survivors but also their stories. To augment the exhibit, the museum is collecting local survivors' and their descendants' stories.
"It has been heavy the past few weeks working on this," said Jennifer Amiel, Museum on Main's director of education, whose grandmother also survived the Holocaust. "I think because these stories are about survivors or descendants they carry a sense of hope and burden to tell the stories."
An only child, Friedlander hasn't shared her father's stories with many people. It was not until she moved to Livermore two years ago and began attending a survivors group at Congregation Beth Emek that she began to open up about her father.
As a teenager, Erwin Friedlander spent close to three years in a labor camp in Romania, where he worked 12-hour days, was beaten every day and allowed to return home at night but had to return the following day and have a small brown notebook stamped by a Nazi soldier every day or be shot on sight.
Friedlander's mother, Jo, spent the years during the Holocaust moving from place to place in Romania to escape the Nazis' persecution.
"It was an opportunity to tell my father's story," said Friedlander, who works as a science writer. "I feel very proud of my parents and how they led their lives after the war."
Erwin Friedlander, 78, survived the Holocaust and lived through Communist-run Romania after the war to become a renowned nuclear scientist who founded the Cosmic Rays Lab in Bucharest and was the youngest member elected to the Romania Academy of Sciences before immigrating to the United States in 1975. Friedlander and her mother followed the following year and eventually called the Bay Area home, where her father worked at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory.
"I didn't go through it, but I experienced it through my parents and heard their cries," said Friedlander. "I was as close as you could be to an eyewitness and now that they are not here I have to be their voice."
If you are a Holocaust survivor or descendant of a survivor and would like to tell your story, you can contact the Museum on Main via email at email@example.com. For more information on the exhibit visit www.museumonmain.org.
What: "Multiply by 6 Million: Portraits and Stories of Holocaust Survivors" exhibit
When: Wednesday through Feb. 28
Where: Museum on Main, 603 Main St., Pleasanton
Museum hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays; 1 to 4 p.m. Sundays
Details: Visit www.museumonmain.org or call 925-462-2766
To share: Holocaust survivors or descendants who would like to share stories may contact the museum at firstname.lastname@example.org.