On May 7th, in the Shea Theater, students had a rare opportunity to hear four Holocaust survivors share their inspirational stories of strength, hope, and survival at the “A Conversation Amongst Survivors” event on Suffolk’s Ammerman Campus.
At this event, Holocaust survivors Werner Reich, Hannah Robinson, Ruth Minsky Sender, and Anne Bleiberg were asked to share their personal experiences and emotions about what they endured during the Holocaust. All of these individuals have previously spoken at the college before, but never have they all spoken at the same event.
The event was organized by Professor Schrier, Professor Klipstein, Joane Cooke, and Jill Santiago. However, the idea for the event originated from the mind of Werner Reich, one of the survivors.
“The genesis of the event was from Werner Reich,” said Professor Schrier, Executive Director of the Holocaust Center for Human Diversity and Understanding. “A public school had recommended me to give them the name of a survivor to speak there. I figured that maybe two survivors could speak, but when I presented the idea to Werner, he felt that it would be difficult for two survivors to speak about both of their very distinct experiences, but he presented the idea for a conversation amongst survivors, and that is how the idea for the panel came about.
Werner Reich was born in Germany and later moved to Yugoslavia. He was sent to Theresienstadt concentration camp in Terezin, the Auschwitz-Berkenau death camp, and Mauthausen concentration camp, surviving a total of three selections.
Hannah Robinson was born in Germany. At the age of nine years old her parents sent her and her brother to England on the Kindertransport, which was an organized rescue mission that took place nine months prior to the outbreak of World War II.
Ruth Minsky Sender was born in Lodz, Poland, and was forced to endure horrific living conditions in the Lodz Ghetto. Her mother was taken away when she was fifteen years old, leaving her to become the mother of her three younger brothers. Later on she was separated from her family and sent to Auschwitz-Berkenau, the Mittelsteine and Grafenort work camps, and a displaced person’s camp. She is also a well-known author of several memoirs reflecting on her experiences, “The Cage,” “To Life,” and “Holocaust Lady”
Anne Bleiberg was born in Poland, and forced to live in the Lubaczow Ghetto, the Krakower Ghetto, the Auschwitz-Berkenau death camp, and the Mohrisch Weisswasser work camp. One of the most memorable parts from her story was that on one of the transports to the death camps, she and her father courageously decided to jump from the train to escape.
The four survivors had an indelible impact on the audience, which was comprised of both students, faculty, and members of the community.
“It’s definitely what I needed to hear,” said Suffolk student Brianna Russa. “It was very inspiring and it’s definitely something that I will always remember.”
“It was very inspiring,” said another Suffolk student Oscar Mercato. “It reminded me that we have to remember things that happened in the past to prevent things like this from happening again.”