Manya Friedman was 13 years old when the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939.
More than 70 years later, she told stories of her life after the invasion to AU students April 10 for Holocaust Remembrance Week.
Friedman touched on her wide range of experiences: working in a shop sewing German uniforms, being perpetually hungry in a crowded Jewish ghetto, her separation from her parents when she was 17 and running outside in her underwear in the middle of the night in joy upon hearing the news that the war was over.
Friedman, who came to the U.S. in 1950, said she feels the millennial generation has an obligation to those who perished in the Holocaust to fight to prevent genocide in places like Darfur.
“Evil prevails when good people do nothing,” she said.
AU Hillel and the Jewish Student Association sponsored Holocaust Remembrance Week.
Chair of Holocaust Remembrance Week Jonathan Lipton said he felt a survivor’s somber account of life during the Holocaust was an effective way to start the weeklong series of events that are designed to help raise awareness of the horrors of genocide.
“This week is a staple of our entire campus community, not just our Jewish community,” Lipton said. “It’s a way for us to not just remember, but express and demonstrate our continued commitment against genocide.”
Holocaust Remembrance Week has been commemorated at the University for the past four years to remember the tragic events of the Holocaust.
“Let’s face it, 10 years from now we won’t be able to see these types of survivor presentations anymore,” said Linda Benesch, a sophomore in the School of Public Affairs and a member of the Jewish Student Association. “We need to take it in when we can, and I always try to go when I have a chance.”
Diplomats sound off
Diplomats from the Bulgarian, Israeli, Czech, Hungarian, Austrian, Greek and Lithuanian embassies discussed how the international community can prevent genocide during an April 14 forum, also a part of Holocaust Remembrance Week.
In “Tolerance Through Education: An International Response to the Holocaust,” the diplomats said the best way to raise awareness about the Holocaust and combat ongoing anti-Semitism is through education.
“When we look in the future, we have to think about how to avoid these tragedies again,” said Andras Szorenyi, a Hungarian embassy public affairs official.
Bulgarian Ambassador Elena Poptodorova said people still need to remember the atrocities that were committed.
“This is not a Jewish matter; it is everybody’s issue,” she said. “I want to keep the story alive. Every generation should pass on this dramatic experience to the next.”
Alice Irvin, Austrian embassy director and press counselor, said Austria has taken steps to address grievances against its once vibrant Jewish community by implementing educational programs in classrooms and field trips to Holocaust museums and memorials.
“We owe it to the victims to preserve their memory,” Irvin said.
Galit Baram, the Israeli counselor for public and academic affairs, described her life growing up as the granddaughter of four Holocaust survivors.
She recounted how one of her grandmothers was previously married with children before the Holocaust, but lost her entire family while in concentration campus. Although her grandmother survived and started anew in Israel, her previous life has not been forgotten.
“[The Holocaust] accompanies us all on a daily basis,” Baram said.
Lithuanian Minister Plenipotentiary Rolandas Kacinskas said his country feels ashamed for the near destruction of 220,000 Lithuanian Jews and stressed the importance of recognizing the event in order to move forward.
“If we are to live in modern society,” he said, “we have to face the darkest chapters of our history.”