PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Holocaust survivors are among the group of those most vulnerable to COVID-19. On Friday, some were finally able to get the vaccine, thanks to the Arizona Department of Health Services and the Phoenix Holocaust Association.
“We consider every Arizonan important when it comes to administering the limited doses of COVID-19 that have been available, but we also know that these individuals are survivors of a very tragic situation,” Dr. Cara Christ, the ADHS director, said.
Frieda Allweis received her second dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Friday at the Phoenix Municipal Stadium. Allweis' father enlisted in the Red …
ADHS was able to set appointments for about 40 Arizona Holocaust survivors appointments. Rise Stillman and Frieda Allweiss were on that list thanks to the efforts of the president of the Phoenix Holocaust Association, Sheryl Brokesh. Both Stillman and Allweiss just got their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine at the state-run vaccination site at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
"It was wonderful really," said Stillman. "I am happy to have gotten second shot and feel safe again."
"I think it's very important, I feel the vaccines are not only are you safe but you make other people safe too," Allweiss said.
Brokesh has worked tirelessly, helping survivors get food during quarantine, making sure they had someone to talk with, and becoming a resource if they had questions. She also worked with all her might to get them a COVID-19 vaccine.
“Because of their age, we knew Holocaust survivors would need help registering, and we also knew that they were especially vulnerable to severe cases of COVID-19,” Brokesh said. “We are grateful for the rapid and compassionate response from the state of Arizona.”
Brokesh worked with Representative Alma Hernandez and ADHS to make it happen for the Phoenix-area survivors.
"Protecting Holocaust survivors is uniquely important," Brokesh said. "They represent survival and resilience. And most importantly, they are among the last remaining eyewitnesses to the horrors of the Holocaust."
Rise Stillman received her second dose of the Pfizer vaccine at the Phoenix Municipal Stadium on Friday. During the Holocaust, Stillman was se…
Stillman was sent to Auschwitz, Birkenau, and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps, according to a news release from ADHS. Her parents, brother and sister all died in Auschwitz. Her other two brothers and another sister survived.
Allweis' father enlisted in the Red Army after Adolf Hitler's armies overran Poland where she and her family lived and invaded the Soviet Union. Allweis and her mother were evacuated to Uzbekistan and later to Siberia, according to ADHS.
It has been difficult to get many seniors, including Holocaust survivors, registered to get the vaccine due to access or issues with technology. But it has also been challenging for many during the COVID-19 pandemic. Having to be quarantined inside has, for some, brought back bad memories. Getting Holocaust survivors out there to share their experiences with younger generations keeps their stories alive and makes sure something like the Holocaust never happens again.
"Survivors play an important role in educating future generations about the lessons of the Holocaust," says Brokesh. "Some local survivors have health vulnerabilities not just because of their age or medical conditions but the extreme malnutrition, physical torture they survived."
Many have been forced to adapt to new technologies like Zoom, which cuts out the human connection one gets when having an in-person face-to-face conversation.
For more information about COVID-19 vaccines or how to get vaccinated, visit ADHS' website here.