By Patrick O’Neill, Staff Writer
On March 27, 2019 Eric Cahn, a Holocaust Survivor born in Germany in 1938 spoke in Claver 210 at 5pm. This event was hosted by RUSGA in association with the Social Justice and Diversity Committee for Anti-Oppression Week.
He started his speech with a phrase that really struck me with its gravity: “I am here today to bear witness to the Holocaust.” He asked each of us in the audience of anticipatory students and staff to think about our own lives as they are today—imagine then that a new government seizes power in our country, banning certain books and music, firebombing places of worship and beating families in the streets. Imagine, he says, Imagine that our lives are ripped apart by violence and oppression.
He also talked about the history of how the Holocaust occurred—the implications of Germany losing World War I began its descent into chaos and lead to the subsequent power seize of Adolf Hitler. Yet, somehow many people don’t believe such a travesty ever happened.
Mr. Cahn told his story—how his family was taken one night by the Nazis around 1942 and shipped “like animals” in freight trains to Camp Gurs in Southern France, a holding and internment camp where in the first winter of the 12,000 at the camp, 1,000 people died. Cahn elaborated how eventually he and his sister were separated from their mother and father when the French Resistance rescued them from the camp. His parents were sent to Auschwitz where his father survived but his mother did not. And, separated from his parents, Eric Cahn lived in France with a French Christian rescue family from 1942 to 1944.
In the Holocaust 11 million minorities died—including 6 million Jewish people living in Europe at the time of Germany’s grab at power. Mr. Cahn left us with some powerful points: It is up to us as the future citizens of the world to never let this happen again. We can make our country a better place by standing up to those who would deny the Holocaust, who would joke about such an event, and who would threaten our society through the belittlement of the people who suffered.
In response to a final question—Eric Cahn asked us to vote against the current President in the 2020 Presidential race to stop bigotry and violence and to do our part to make the nation a safer place to live in.