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28 April 2010

Losing History

Yesterday I had the wonderful opportunity to listen to a Holocaust survivor speak about her experiences in russian Poland and the concentration camps. I've read so many books of survivor accounts and Holocaust experiences; it really is a point of special research interest for me. I find the everlasting hope and perseverance of the Jews (and other groups) in this period to be so very remarkable and inspiring. But never in my 30 years have I had the opportunity to speak to a survivor. Happily my school has had a survivor as a guest speaker for the past 13 years. I found coverage for my classes and seized the opportunity to listen in.

It was amazing. And inspiring. And devastating. And hopeful. And moving. I found myself tearing up on multiple occasions. Her story was so ... amazing. To think that a young girl of 13 years or so lived through such a harrowing experience leaves me speechless. I've read enough and seen enough documentaries to know that the experience really happened to so many but to put a tangible face with the experience was shocking and made so much more of an impact on me that all of the things I have ever read or seen. Our kids here at CA are lucky to have the experience.

Unfortunately, I left the talk with more than just the impact of her speech. I left with impact of not having her speech. Let me explain. The lovely Mrs. Abramson (the speaker) was in her very early teens when she experienced the Holocaust. That means that she is currently in her 80s or beyond. She won't live forever, and it is evident that her memory is beginning to fail her (which is a blessing in its own right. I'm sure that the horrible images of her experience still play on her eyelids when she closes her eyes at night.). Recognizing that she won't be around much longer to tell her account reminds me that this so very important moment in history will eventually fade into a memory. Someday there will be no more survivors to recount their experiences and warn future generations. Eventually the Holocaust will become no more than a chapter (hopefully lengthy!) in a history book and will become completely removed from our students. Without putting a living breathing face to the experience, it seems less real. It will become like the Civil War. A moment in history that could never happen again. Yes, many survivors have recorded their experiences on video and audio, but that still is so removed. Being able to approach Mrs. Abramson after hearing her harrowing account and put your arms around her and feel her kiss your forehead carries so much more impact than a textbook or video ever can.

One can only hope that the Holocaust remains vivid in history books, and we continue to learn from that tragic and horrendous moment in world history.
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