Children of the Holocaust recounted their personal experiences of loss and survival during World War II to students and community members at the Survivors Panel in the Main Ballroom of the Lory Student Center Monday night for CSU’s 12th annual Holocaust Awareness Week.
“As time goes on and the Holocaust is further in our past, we won’t have the opportunity to hear personally from those who experienced this horror,” said Josh Samat, director of Hillel.
Samat said he wished audience members would take the experience of listening to survivors and keep their stories alive with family, friends and neighbors “when Holocaust survivors are no longer here to share them.”
Molly Zwerdlinger, president of Students for Holocaust Awareness, echoed Samat’s sentiment.
“The number of Holocaust survivors is becoming less and less,” she said.
Sid Simonson, a senior accounting major, said he attended the panel to gain a better understanding of what Jewish men and women endured over 60 years ago.
“These men and women are disappearing and I want to absorb as much as what they’ve gone through and remember it,” he said. “I think it’s important that we remember what happened. Those that forget history are bound to repeat it.”
A statement Simonson finds especially relevant in today’s society is that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denies the Holocaust ever happened and continues to be anti-Semitic in his political positions.
Jack Adler, Andre Mark, and Eric Cahn comprised the panel last night, speaking to a nearly filled room. All are Colorado residents who strongly believe that hatred must be stopped and tolerance and acceptance advocated.
Polish-born Adler spoke first and described his life as an adolescent during World War II and how he managed to be the only surviving member of his immediate family of six and one of five surviving members of his extended family.
Adler told personal stories of his childhood and adolescence during World War II to thousands of individuals across the country each year because he believes that education will lead to understanding and acceptance.
“We should educate, especially the young, not to condone instances of racism or bigotry, “he said, “Hate is the seed for evil. Spreading hatred, you spread the seed for evil.”
Adler said a person’s affiliations, background, and race should not be indicators of their worth or abilities, that everyone is equal.
“No matter what color one’s skin is, no matter what ethnic background or religious background or affiliation, we all belong to one race, the human race,” he said.
That includes the people in Germany during the Holocaust years and under Hitler’s rule. Adler holds no bitterness toward Germans and realizes many did not know what they had gotten into.
“The German people are as good as any other ethnic group, unfortunately, they condoned and supported Hitler,” he said.
Mark, who was born to a Jewish family in Transylvania, spoke next about his life under Nazi rule and his life as the only surviving member of his family.
“Hatred is something that kills,” he said, noting that his family did not survive “because we were born Jews . we were not anymore human.”
Cahn was only a toddler during WWII and along with his younger sister was apprehensively handed over by his parents to the French Resistance after enduring months in a detention camp.
“I am here tonight to bear witness to the Holocaust,” he said.
Taken in by a French Christian family, Cahn survived the Holocaust years in the family’s basement and eventually reunited with his sister and father. Cahn lost his mother at Auschwitz.
“My parents were able to keep us alive,” he said. “It’s a decision no parent should ever have to make.”
Primary in each of the survivor’s stories was the importance of educating others about tolerance and the immediate need for action in places such as Darfur, in the Sudan. Cambodia, Rwanda and Bosnia were cited as recent examples of modern Holocausts.
“Innocent people are being murdered everyday,” said Cahn.
Adler believes the key to humanity’s survival is simply tolerance. He says if everyone could live by the Golden Rule we would have peace in the world.
“We don’t have to love everyone, we don’t have to like everyone, but we must respect everyone as a human being,” he said.
Staff writer Shannon Hurley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.