Greg Jenner grew up thinking his grandmother was born Catholic. That all changed on Jan. 20.

Jenner, a British historian, knew that his "Mamie" was French but never thought to investigate her past. That is, until his mother contacted him with a stunning discovery about how her mother survived the Nazi occupation.

The Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images.


The news came as Jenner was watching Donald Trump's inauguration, which he recounts on his blog in a breathtaking essay titled "Discovering My Family's Holocaust History."

"As I winced at [Trump's] ugly oratory, and cheered myself up by retweeting droll barbs on Twitter, an email popped into my inbox from my mother. I quickly opened it, forgetting what it was she had promised to send me. Immediately it made me cry.  There in black and white was a series of scanned documents listing the details of my great-grandfather’s transportation to Auschwitz."

What follows is a heart-wrenching story of love, terror, and trauma — which Jenner calls "the hardest thing I've ever written."

As Jenner's mother recently discovered while leafing through a trove of old documents, Jenner's grandmother and her sister were born to a Jewish father. When the Nazis invaded, he was rounded up and transported to a concentration camp in France and eventually was sent to Auschwitz, where he was murdered.

Jenner's great-aunt was deported to Auschwitz as well, which she miraculously survived, while his grandmother spent the war years in hiding. Some years later, she married a Catholic man and converted — burying her family's history in the process.

The main gate at Auschwitz, where Jenner's relatives were held. Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images.

Jenner wrote the essay with one thing in mind: Holocaust denial.

Refusing to admit that the Holocaust happened, that it wasn't as severe as conventionally portrayed, or that it didn't specifically target Jews used to be a fringe phenomenon, but recently — shockingly — it's been edging into the mainstream.

The Trump administration flirted with it when it failed to mention Jews on Holocaust Remembrance Day and when press secretary Sean Spicer claimed that Hitler didn't use chemical weapons against his "own people" (for which he recently apologized). Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone took a swing at it last year, claiming that Zionist Jews in Germany openly collaborated with Hitler, who Livingstone argued was himself a Zionist.

From left: Sean Spicer, Marine Le Pen, and Ken Livingstone. Photos by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images, Thierry Chesnot/Getty Images, and Ian Gavan - WPA Pool/Getty Images.

Then there's French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, who Jenner singles out in his essay for particular shame. Le Pen, whose political party was founded by her Holocaust-denying father Jean-Marie, sparked controversy recently by claiming that France wasn't responsible for assisting in the roundup of French Jews during the Nazi occupation.

It's a claim, Jenner says, belied by the newly uncovered evidence of the experiences of his great-aunt and her father, who were betrayed by acquaintances and held in a prison camp guarded by French police.

"My great-aunt was probably arrested and detained by her own countrymen, but she was deported to a death camp on the orders of a Nazi," he writes. "Marine Le Pen would have you forget the first part of that sentence."

Attempts to erase the ugly details of a nation's history, Jenner argues, are what allow shallow nationalism to flourish.

Children wait behind barbed wire as Soviet troops liberate the Auschwitz concentration camp. AP Photo/CAF Pap.

By whitewashing the past, unscrupulous leaders tacitly permit citizens to take pride in their country's victories and successes without having to feel guilty for the messy parts.

In France, that can mean denying responsibility for the calamity that befell families like Jenner's, pinning the blame on an outside enemy.

In the United States, it often means landmarks and apologist textbooks that glorify Confederate history and minimize the brutality of slavery. Or completely erasing the slow-moving genocide of Native Americans out of our national story.  

Belief that one's country can do no wrong is a seductive position, which makes stoking that belief an all too effective political tactic.

In reality, almost all countries have done terrible things to their own citizens and residents.

The costs of denial, meanwhile, are the erasure of real people like Jenner's great-grandfather, great-aunt, and grandmother, for whom the memory of those years was so painful she never spoke of them.

"It’s only since my grandmother’s death that the rest of us have started to investigate what must have been an extraordinarily traumatic wound," he writes.

Jenner worries that once the last Holocaust survivors are gone, the memory of the horror will fade, allowing revisionist takes like Spicer's, Livingstone's, and Le Pen's to prosper.

A visitor explores Berlin's Holocaust Memorial. Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images.

By documenting his family's history, he hopes that in spite of demagoguery from those who bend the facts to suit their narrow political agenda, "the truth will always float to the surface."

"This week, it was my family’s truth which was corrupted by dangerous political speech. Next week it will be someone else’s. But the fallacious statements from Livingstone, Spicer, and Le Pen were successfully challenged thanks to the combined efforts of eyewitnesses, historians, and the survivors themselves, all of whom contributed over the years to help build up an understanding of what happened in those brutal years under Hitler’s reign. In the Shoah Memorial in Paris — and other institutions like it — there are documents, photos, diaries, and carefully-assembled rosters of names, dates, and places; the weight of evidence that defies denialists."

History, he admits, is complicated. But that doesn't mean there isn't fact and fiction within it.

The Holocaust and France's complicity with it is, tragically, fact.

The motto of the generation that survived the war, cruelty, and genocide of the Holocaust is "Never forget."

Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images.

As his grandmother's generation passes on, Jenner wants to ensure that forgetting never becomes easier.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
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When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

What you look like in a selfie camera isn't really what you look like in real life.

We've all done it: You snap a selfie, look at it, say, "OMG is my nose swollen?" then try again from a different angle. "Wait, now my forehead looks weird. And what's up with my chin?" You keep trying various angles and distances, trying to get a picture that looks like how you remember yourself looking. Whether you finally land on one or not, you walk away from the experience wondering which photo actually looks like the "real" you.

I do this, even as a 40-something-year-old who is quite comfortable with the face I see in the mirror. So, it makes me cringe imagining a tween or teen, who likely take a lot more selfies than I do, questioning their facial features based on those snapshots. When I'm wondering why my facial features look weird in selfies it's because I know my face well enough to know that's not what it looks like. However, when a young person whose face is changing rapidly sees their facial features distorted in a photo, they may come to all kinds of wrong conclusions about what they actually look like.

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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
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The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

Dan Fischer takes people's lost loved ones out surfing for "one last wave."

Dan Fischer understands grief. He also has some idea of how to cope with it—and how to help others through it as well.

Fischer has experienced tremendous loss in the past few years, losing both his father and his best friend. As a surfer, he's a believer in what he calls "the transformative power of the ocean." Originally from Montreal, Canada, Fischer has found healing riding the waves off Newport, Rhode Island, where he's lived for the past seven years.

Now he wants to share that healing power of the waves with others.

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The airplane graveyard that 3 families call home is the subject of a stunning photo series.

From the skies to the ground, these airplanes continue to serve a purpose.

This article originally appeared on 09.18.15


What happens to airplanes after they're no longer fit to roam the skies?


An abandoned 747 rests in a Bangkok lot. Photo by Taylor Weidman/Getty Images.

Decommissioned planes are often stripped and sold for parts, with the remains finding a new home in what is sometimes referred to as an "airplane boneyard" or "graveyard." Around the world, these graveyards exist; they're made up of large, empty lots and tons of scrap metal.

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