Singing about the devastation of the Holocaust brings tears to Mark Fenster's eyes because he has knows, first-hand, of the trauma of that era.

Fenster says the experience is intensely personal as his parents are Holocaust survivors and he feels he owes a lot to the heroes who smuggled them out of Poland.

The baritone is singing in Tuesday's performance of Renia Perel's Songs of the Wasteland, which pays tribute to those who risked their lives to help Jews escape the Holocaust.  

"Emotionally it's very trying. The most difficult work is trying to get through the piece without crying and honestly, I haven't been able to do that yet."

'Tens of thousands of Schindlers'

Fenster says many Jews around the world owe their lives to those who silently helped bring them and their families to safety during the genocide.

"There were tens of thousands of Schindlers. My dad is alive and so am I because of one such person. My mother as well."

mark fenster

Mark Fenster is singing in Renia Perel's, "Songs of the Wasteland," a concert that honours those who risked their lives to help Jews during the Holocaust. (Charlie Cho/CBC)

Fenster's father was born in the eastern part of Poland, in a village that was overtaken by the Nazis. His parents and three of his sisters perished, while one sister and six brothers managed to live through it all and eventually escape to Israel and Montreal.

His mother was only two years old when she was smuggled out of a holding camp, to an orphanage in  the south of France. 

Fenster says stories of the Holocaust will always remain in his family.  

"It was more talked about as something we need to move past and recognize as part of our heritage," he said.

"I feel very grateful that we're here."

The concert starts at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, at the Vancouver Academy of Music.

Tickets are $10.

Wednesday, January 27th is International Holocaust Remembrance Day

To listen to the full audio, click the link labelled: Holocaust concert pays tribute to survivors and heroes.