In the midst of World War II, a mass genocide, known as the Holocaust, took place. The lives of millions and millions of innocent people, children and adults, were destroyed through senseless violence orchestrated by Nazi Germany. Their primary goal was to achieve racial “purity” by eradicating anyone not of the Aryan “master race.” The total number of documented casualties surpasses 10 million, but it is estimated that Jews comprised at least half of this figure.
Tikkun Olam co-presidents, Sofia Wagner and Mikhal Ben-Joesph, invited one of the few Holocaust survivors remaining, Simon Chevlin, to share his experience of the Holocaust.
“[Chevlin] never went through a concentration camp, but he did face many hardships during the war,” Wagner said. “He was only 11 when the war broke out, and he lived in a ghetto as well as in the woods. He struggled for many months with little food or water [and] escaped to America [where he] now shares his many stories of running from the Nazis.”
Depressing stories such as Chevlin’s are important to hear not just because we should feel sorry for what they have gone through, but also to prevent our forgetting what was done to millions of innocent people. For this reason, Tikkun Olam has invited Holocaust survivors to share their stories the past eight years.
“We feel it is important for Holocaust speakers such as [Chevlin] to continue to share stories at schools because they lived through an important part of history,” Wagner said. “They have firsthand experience of what we learn about in textbooks, and their stories help us gain a better understanding of it. It’s from their unique perspectives that we, as students, can learn from history and make sure that we don’t allow it to repeat itself.”
After Chevlin’s appearance Friday, his message seemed to be coming through loud and clear. “It is important Holocaust survivors continue to share their stories,” Freshman Elliot Starkman said. “There are so few [survivors] left, and their stories need to be told so that a tragic incident like the Holocaust never happens again. It is important that their story is not forgotten so that future generations understand the horrific events that occurred.”
For Starkman, Chevlin’s story hits especially close to home as his great-grandfather was one of the survivors, but died four years ago. “The fact that he was able to endure such hardships throughout his time, serves as a major inspiration to me to this day,” he said.
Although the stories may be difficult to hear, Friday, Jan 26 served as a wake up call to all attendees. Soon, there will no longer be any survivors left, and it is up to younger generations to continue telling their stories. If the few survivors left such as Simon Chevlin continue to spread their stories and we, students, continue to listen, remember and pass them forward, then the approximate 10 million victims will not have died in vain, but instead pave a pathway to ensure safety for future generations.