October 22, 2020

Holocaust survivors bring meaning to history

Holocaust survivor David Wisnia told his story of survival to audience members in Forcina Hall last Thursday. (Abby Hocking / Photo Assistant)
Holocaust survivor David Wisnia told his story of survival to audience members in Forcina Hall last Thursday. (Abby Hocking / Photo Assistant)

Two Holocaust survivors came to the College to have an intimate talk with faculty and staff, telling their tales of bravery and survival last Thursday.

“The Holocaust is one of the very important times in history,” said president R. Barbara Gitenstein. “It is a privilege to listen to these extraordinary people share their stories.”

Survivors Ruth Lubitz and David Wisnia came to room 132 of Forcina Hall by the Jewish Student Union.

Hillel contacted the New Jersey Holocaust Commission to find two local speakers that would be willing to share their stories during Holocaust Remembrance Week, which took place from Nov. 9 to Nov. 13, according to Hillel’s president Tracy Steinberg.

Lubitz explained her horrifying account of the Holocaust.

“Sometimes history is difficult to understand and remember, but when you hear it from a person who experienced it is much more meaningful,” Lubitz said.

Lubitz was born in Germany in 1922 to a middle class family. Her family lived in Chemnitz, where her father owned a local business.

Lubitz described how SS (Schutzstaffel) officers and men who wore brown shirts and brown boots would march the streets and terrify her family.

One night these men beat her father, who fought in World War I for Germany, so badly that he died a few days later. Lubitz was only seven years old and could not even attend the funeral.

Her brother was able to obtain a visa and escape Germany in February 1939.

In April 1939, Lubitz also left Germany, but in a different fashion. She was escorted during the night and taken to England where a family took her in.

Lubitz mentioned that if the audience wanted an example of her situation, they should watch the film called “Into the Arms of Strangers.”

Lubitz said she stayed in contact with her mother until 1945, when her mother was killed at Auschwitz.

Lubitz closed by saying, “All men are created equal. We all understand this, but we don’t all practice this.”

According to Mike Baker, a junior mechanical engineering major, “It was pretty powerful. It makes it really real when people are talking right to you about ‘the Holocaust.’ This was a good event to open your eyes.”

Wisnia explained the manner in which he “became an orphan in one day.” When he was 16 years old, Wisnia came home one day to find his family murdered atop a burning pile of corpses.

Along with 1,500 others, Wisnia was taken to Auschwitz. Only four survived, according to Wisnia.

He was able to survive by singing to the SS guards and cellblock leaders, keeping them entertained.

Prisoners at Auschwitz were taken on a death march where Wisnia was able to escape and find the 506 Parachute Infinity batallion nearby, members of the 101st Airborne Division of the U.S. Army.

A book about his journey, “Butterflies in Kanada,” is in the makings.

“There are not many of us left who survived Auschwitz,” Wisnia said. “Our story needs to be told.”

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