The first time Anna Salton Eisen ever heard her father speak about his experiences in a Nazi concentration camp was in an AU history class. In the early 1980s, Eisen took a course taught by retired professor Richard Breitman on Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. “That was the beginning of a personal journey of discovery that has continued to the present day,” Eisen said. When she told Prof. Breitman her father was a Holocaust survivor, Breitman invited him to come and speak to the class. “I had never heard my father speak about the Holocaust before,” she said. “It always seemed like something forbidden to talk about in my childhood. But I think he was waiting to be asked.”
After she graduated from AU in 1984 with a degree in public communications and a minor in history, Eisen moved to the Dallas-Ft. Worth area and quickly became a pioneer in the field of Holocaust public education. In the nearly four decades since taking Prof. Breitman’s course, Eisen has found her voice as the child of a Holocaust survivor. “There aren’t many Holocaust survivors left anymore,” she said. “So we in the second generation, as the children of survivors, are trying to figure out what our responsibility is to educate and inform the public.” In 2002, Eisen helped her father write The 23rd Psalm: A Holocaust Memoir (2002), which has just been reissued in a 20th anniversary edition. She is currently producing a documentary, In My Father’s Words, which also draws from her most recent book, Pillar of Salt: A Daughter’s Life in the Shadow of the Holocaust, released in May 2022.
Working to maintain awareness of the experiences of Holocaust survivors forces Eisen to confront a disturbing set of challenges. In the course of public speaking engagements at schools, commemorative events, and in the media, Eisen often has to endure personal threats to both her own safety and that of her family and friends. In January 2022, an Islamist terrorist took hostage four members of the Congregation Beth Israel, which Eisen helped found. Though the crisis was resolved without injury to the hostages, it serves as a constant reminder of anti-Semitism and its devastating consequences. “This used to be history, but now it is current events,” she said. With the re-emergence of anti-Semitist beliefs into popular media discourse, peddled by a small number of influential celebrities and other social media influencers, Eisen’s work is even more urgent than before. “I don’t know if what we’re doing is working or not,” she says, “but bullying not confronted becomes empowered.”