Holocaust account challenges sophomore (VIDEO)
The Holocaust only receives four pages in my Advanced Placement (AP) U.S. history text book. That’s four pages to account for over six million deaths; four pages to tell the stories of women, men and children burned to ashes by the thousands; four pages to inform our young minds of some of the most horrific events in human history.
Encouraged by my publications adviser and English teacher, Greg Stobbe, fellow sophomore Viviana Hinojosa and I attended the opening ceremony of The Courage to Remember exhibit from The Museum of Tolerance, Sept. 22.
We arrived at California State University, Fresno, lost and confused but eventually ended up in the Student Union Pavilion at about 3:40 p.m. 50 minutes early, we talked about actually getting to meet the survivors, who were scheduled to appear. What questions would we ask them? How much would they be willing to share? Would we be able to tell who they were when they arrived?
A little old lady, whom we later found out was Anna Levin-Ware, came rolling in on a wheelchair next to her husband. Instantly I knew that it was her as those in charge acted with delicacy around her, showing her deep respect. With her first words everything around us seemed to focus on her.
Levin-Ware was taken by Germans from her home in Hungary in the 1940s to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Her husband — who was sharing for her because she is in stages of dementia and suffers from loss of hearing due to beatings she took while interned at Auschwitz-Birkenau — told us of her time in the camps.
Levin-Ware was badly beaten by the female guards at Auschwitz-Birkenau for attempting to open a window. Later Levin-Ware shared how she was placed in a gas chamber, doors locked, ready to die. Then, suddenly, guards suddenly opened the doors and announced that any Hungarians were to leave, including her by marriage. To her surprise, they removed her from the chamber.
But to her horror, they left her father, mother, brother and baby sister in the gas chamber and could only listen as the sounds of panic slowly became silent, marking their deaths. Along with other parts of her story, she showed the audience a picture of her assembled before the Nazis of her camp when she was in her 20s.
In history classes, we learn the dates, names and facts about this catastrophic event, but what should we really be learning? The answer is the stories of human beings; their stories of being degraded and abused by other human beings to the point where death becomes the norm.
Us, we, my generation needs more than just four pages; we all need experiences that teach us just what mankind is capable of. These stories of the survivors will eventually become nonexistent, as, in a few years, no survivors will be alive. We need to continue to teach their stories in order to help keep their miraculous lives recognized.
Wiesel writes in Night, “Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, that turned my life into one long night seven times sealed. Never shall I forget the nocturnal silence that deprived me for all eternity of the desire to live. Never shall I forget those things, even were I condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never.”
If Wiesel remembers with full clarity what he experienced, how can we allow the world to forget? How can we ignore the death of over six million people, just because they were born with the title, “Jew.”
The scary part is that not only did the Holocaust happen in Germany, but similar events occur all the time. It happened in France at the Velodrome d’Hiver, in Greece and even prevailed in America with the Japanese-Americans.
This experience will stick with me forever. I am blessed to be able to say that I met a Holocaust survivor and heard a firsthand account of her life. These years need to be remembered, the stories need to be told and those deaths need to have a purpose.
With this week, I learned more than I ever expected. This knowledge drives me to study events such as the Holocaust and keep it my goal to encourage others to do the same.
We need to remember we are all human, none of us can blame another for this event because even those not involved stood by, watched and did nothing. After this week, I know that I will refuse to watch any longer. I will stand up, not because I think I am right, but because I am human.
The exhibit will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m daily through Monday and from 9 to 10 a.m. on Tuesday. For more information call the museum at (299) 355-1325.
For more opinions, read the Sept. 20 article GOP debate offers trail run for candidates. Please visit Fresno Christian High School’s Internet newspaper, The Feather Online (www.thefeather.com). It is a daily publication which covers community events, issues, sports, features and profiles from the Fresno/Clovis area.
For more information on The Courage to Remember, visit Fresno State’s online paper, The Collegian, and read Holocaust exhibit visits Fresno State.