MIT Department of Physics, Cambridge, MA – June 25, 2020

by George J Elbaum

Along with other schools and universities, my alma mater Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) closed its campus in March at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it moved online those operations which could be conducted online, such as lectures, seminars, consultations, planning meetings, etc.  My 8 ½ years studying at MIT were in Aeronautics & Astronautics and in Nuclear Engineering Departments from which I received my PhD in 1967.  When I reconnected with MIT in 1999 to start “giving back” for having benefitted from its education, it was to support the Physics Department.  My logic for this choice is questionable since after getting almost all A’s in high school, the shock of getting a 20 out of 100 on my first MIT Physics test was truly an “unforgettable” experience which started a hate-love relationship with Physics.

Thus for the last 20 years I’ve maintained close personal ties with the Physics Department, and a month ago Peter Fisher, the Head of the Department and a friend, asked whether I would give my talk at the weekly lunch which he hosts via Zoom for the Physics community of faculty, staff, and students.  His reasoning was the same as for my March 20 talk to the staff of the American Technion Society: “It would be good for many in the Department to hear that others have faced adversity before.”

My talk to 45 faculty, staff and graduate students was organized by Peter Fisher, with Zoom and my PowerPoint ably managed by Ryan Higgins, Events and Development Assistant, and attendees included personnel from the Department, the School of Science, and the Administration.  As the thumbnail photos of attendees started to appear on the screen before the talk, I was very pleased to see dear and familiar faces and exchange comments with Elizabeth Chadis, Nergis Mavalvala, Erin McGrath Tribble, Alan Guth, and Claude Canizares.  During the Q&A Bolek Wyslouch’s question took me on a memory trip to my childhood in post-war Poland, and I was truly, deeply touched by Ibrahim Cisee’s response to my talk.  Also attending were Dan Kleppner, Dave Pritchard, Bob Jaffe, Bruno Coppi and others.

MIT Zoom - Blurred - 06252020

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Forum for Dialogue, Warsaw, Poland – June 17, 2020

by George J Elbaum

Forum for Dialogue is the largest and oldest Polish non-governmental organization engaging in Polish/Jewish dialogue.  Since the future truly belongs to the young, in its School of Dialogue program the Forum educates Polish teenagers about local Polish/Jewish heritage and inspires them to act.  Aimed at students of secondary schools, it acquaints them with the history of Jews in Poland and especially in their own towns, with focus on their contribution to the social, cultural and economic development.  Since almost all Polish Jews were killed by the Nazis during the Holocaust, the role that Jews played in their town’s local history is often completely unknown to today’s students.  Thanks to this program, Jews cease to be ”others” and again become neighbors who, despite having perished, are not forgotten.  The School of Dialogue program is held throughout the country and reaches around one thousand students annually, and it is as part of this program that I’ve been speaking at these schools in recent years.

Closely associated with educating the students in the School of Dialogue is supporting their teachers and enhancing their knowledge through seminars, workshops, and other educational activities.  While the School of Dialogue workshops are led by Forum’s especially trained educators, the success of young people’s commemorative efforts often hinges on their teachers at school, who encourage and advise them. The teachers are also there to help students continue the work of bringing back memory of the local Jewish community once the program itself is over. My presentation today was aimed at these teachers, who were the majority of the audience.

Forum’s educators who conduct the School of Dialogue workshops are especially trained not only in Jewish history and culture in the local region but also how to react to difficult situations such as responding to anti-Semitic comments during workshops, overcoming resistance in the local community, etc.  They, too, were invited to join the session.

Also attending the presentation were participants in the Forum’s other programs.  Leaders of Dialogue is a program aimed for local activists, typically outside large municipal centers, who are involved in Polish/Jewish dialogue, combating anti-Semitism, teaching about Jewish history and culture and preserving local Jewish heritage.  For them, Forum for Dialogue has created a platform for exchanging experiences and best practices, broadening their knowledge and honing their skills.  Attending also were participants of the Shared Heritage program: Christian leaders and activists committed to fostering understanding between Christians and Jews in the context of Polish/Jewish history.

My presentation via Zoom was organized and moderated by Forum’s coordinators Julia Machnowska and Maria Sokolowska and translated by Maria Piekarska.

 

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Methuen High School, Methuen, MA – June 2, 2020

by George J Elbaum

Methuen High School (MHS) is a public secondary school serving grades 9-12.  It has an enrollment of 1950, of which 46% is minority and 47% from low-income families.  The Holocaust is taught at MHS as part of English Department studies by teacher Jackie Rubino, who organized my presentation at MHS and uses educational materials from Facing History and Ourselves and other sources..  Approximately 80 of MHS’s 9th grade students attended today’s presentation via Zoom, and the materials they have already studied include much of the Holocaust and Human Behavior book from Facing History, “Schindler’s List,” selections from the The World Must Know, Night by Elie Wiesel, plus   supplemental materials.

In the 10 years of presentations I have noticed that the quality of students’ questions during the Q&A depends on the quality of student preparation, and thus the quality of teaching.  Enthusiastic teachers such as Jackie Rubino result in enthusiastic students, and that resulted in our Q&A lasting 40 minutes after my almost an hour presentation.  I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of her students’ questions, and some of their most thoughtful ones had been asked of me only once or twice in the 260+ talks I have given to date.  I’ve long felt that the Q&A is often the most important part of my talks because it represents our 2-way communication, and I was very pleased and moved by today’s session.

Attending the presentation (by Zoom) were also 13 MHS teachers and the head of the English Department.  My participation was arranged by Judi Bohn and Jeff Smith of Facing History.

Letters from students

Two weeks after the Zoom “visit” with Methuen, I received two memorable packages: the first was a box of wonderful sweets from teacher Jackie Rubino, visually colorful and oh-so delicious!  Kept in the refrigerator and partaken judiciously, it will keep my sweet tooth happy for some time. 😊

The second package was an envelope with a pack of neatly typed letters from the students.  As has been our habit, my wife Mimi and I read these letters, highlighted the sentences or sections that resonated with us because of their thoughtfulness or sensitivity, and these excerpts are listed below.

  • Thank you for sharing your beautiful story and sharing it with the world too.
  • Even though I don’t know you personally, I feel as if I do after learning so much about you and your childhood and early adulthood.
  • It’s very inspirational that you were able to look back on your past and accept that it was a part of you despite all of the terrible things that have happened to you. I hope that you live for many more years and that you continue to spread your story.
  • I feel very much influenced by your good energy and positive attitude. Over the past few months our country has been hit with a lot of terrorizing news changing everyone’s lives.  Change for me is never easy.  Subconsciously, I chose to make the worst out of it.  I wasn’t doing any of my school work. I hadn’t talked to my friends for weeks.  I was surrounded in a bubble of negativity and I didn’t know what to do about it.  About two weeks ago I realized I was tired of living this way.  I finally realized I have to make the best out of a bad situation.  Your presentation gave me a sense of clarity.  The way that you make the best out of a negative experience is truly inspiring, and it’s because of people like you that I continue each and every day with an optimistic outlook on life.
  • Your story was really touching and when I could really feel your pain, especially when you started to tear up, I felt more touched.
  • I loved the reasoning behind your book title “Neither Yesterdays Nor Tomorrows.”
  • It was very special to see you talk about your mother. It was very visible that you are proud of her, and hearing about her strength to keep you and herself safe during the Holocaust was very inspiring.
  • I will use your message of standing up against discrimination to face situations that may need it in my future.
  • I love the fact that you didn’t let him (a vocational counselor) discourage you and instead thought, he’s probably discouraging you because that happened to him. That really stuck with me and showed me that I should never let anyone discourage me from something I really want to do.
  • It was very inspiring to hear you, who has gone through so much in their life, to be so determined and not give up on what you wanted to pursue. Even though the odds were against you, you worked hard and got to where you wanted which is something I will definitely remember and hope to do that in my lifetime.
  • Even in dark times you were able to find joy by looking at the airplane flying in the sky through the hole in the roof, and now you are doing what you love.
  • I feel very relieved that you didn’t have to go to concentration camps, but I see that you still go through pain from the tragic events that you’ve seen and felt. You have inspired me in many ways from your story.
  • Your words about never letting anyone tell us we cannot accomplish something or go into a career we chose are very motivational. It showed me that if I put my mind to something, I can make it happen.  Even though you grew up in such a difficult position, you still made a wonderful career and life out of it.
  • Overall, your words made a huge difference in my understanding of the Holocaust and how I think about discrimination of many kinds.

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JFCS Holocaust Center – Israeli American Council Summer Learning Series, San Francisco, CA – May 26, 2020

by George J Elbaum

Jewish Family and Children’s Services Holocaust Center is a San Francisco Bay Area social services organization whose mission statement is “Serving individuals and families of all faiths and backgrounds, guided by the Jewish value of caring for those in our community most in need.” As such, JFCS carries a special responsibility within the Jewish community for reaching out to children, the aged, those with special needs, and for the resettlement and acculturation of refugees and immigrants.

Among its many services, the JFCS Holocaust Center provides educational programs on the Holocaust for teachers, students, and community members.  Their recently-launched Summer Learning Series includes virtual programming open to anyone in the world.  My talk, the first of the series, was organized by the JFCS Holocaust Center jointly with the Israeli American Council (IAC) and was followed by several breakout sessions for reflection and discussion.  Approximately 85 guests participated in the event, which was organized by JFCS Holocaust Center’s Program Coordinator Penny Savryn in partnership with Sharona Israeli-Roth, San Francisco Regional Director of IAC.  Morgan Blum Schneider, Director of the JFCS Holocaust Center, welcomed attendees and all three of them, in turn, introduced me .

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Islander Middle School, Mercer Island, WA – May 20, 2020

by George J Elbaum

Islander Middle School (IMS) is the only public middle school (grades 6 thru 8) on Mercer Island.  Its enrollment is approximately 1100 students with 28% minority.  IMS utilizes district-adopted curriculum as the foundation for its core classes as well as offering a variety of engaging learning electives, and it clearly succeeds in this task as it’s ranked an impressive 10th of 441 Washington middle schools.  The school’s mission statement, “We strive to ensure a challenging, relevant and engaging experience where every student is able to advance to a greater level of understanding, ability and performance,” clearly extends beyond only academics, as it prepares its students to “thrive in today’s cognitive, digital, and global world while sustaining their passion and inspiration for learning.”

In addition to academics, IMS has a strong social and societal focus, presenting and promoting subjects such as race and equality, civil rights, and other current issues of our society.  The monthly Principal’s Message on its website also includes down-to-earth advice for students, such as use and misuse of social media, and a monthly Character Trait Dare, such as honesty, forgiveness, etc, with specific suggestions for students to test themselves on that trait.

As part of the school’s societal focus I was invited to speak about my Holocaust childhood to the 8th grade class (approx. 200 students) as I did the previous 3 years.  Unlike the past years, however, the current COVID-19 pandemic has forced schools to switch from in-person to online teaching, and my talk also online via Zoom.  All went according to plan until Zoom crashed several minutes before the end of my presentation and the start of Q&A.  I therefore lost the opportunity to encourage students to speak up when faced with bullying, antisemitism or racism, and also to address the list of 28 questions that they assembled before my talk plus an equal number submitted during the talk via Zoom’s chat feature.  Since I feel strongly that the Q&A is a critical part of the talk, I committed to answering these questions via email.

The event was again organized by Language Arts teacher Joseph Gushanas and attended by Principal MaryJo Budzius and English teachers Aaron Miller and Weston Lucas.  My participation was arranged by Julia Thompson, Education Research Coordinator, Holocaust Center for Humanity.

The event was again organized by Language Arts teacher Joseph Gushanas and arranged by Julia Thompson, Education Research Coordinator, Holocaust Center for Humanity.

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Catholic Memorial School, West Roxbury, MA – May 18, 2020

by George J Elbaum

Catholic Memorial School (CM) is an all-boys college preparatory school (grades 7–12) with an attendance of 732 students (650 in grades 9-12) and a stated purpose to “prepare boys for college, manhood and a world full of unknown challenges, ambiguity and complex problems and the importance of relationships.”

In addition to academics, Catholic Memorial prepares its students for community leadership roles through its speech and debate program, and nearly every student participates in “forensics”, or speech and debate, at one point in his academic career.  CM faculty teach students public speaking skills through various classroom activities.  In the Speech and Debate club students perform and compete inter-scholastically as they recite speeches, dramatic acts and original oratory.  The school’s Speech and Debate program has produced over 25 state and three national champions, and its Forensics program has won two straight Massachusetts Speech and Debate league championships in 2017 and 2018.

CM’s mission also includes the mandate to teach young men to “lead through service”.  CM students participate in numerous domestic and international trips each year, and these build a community among the students and immerse students in service experiences.  Additionally, a required 60-hour senior service program begins at the start of each year, with seniors serving at inner-city grammar schools, hospitals, non-profit agencies, clothing distribution centers, food pantries, and soup kitchens.  Volunteers from all grades and CM’s ten community service clubs contribute thousands of hours of service each year.

Athletics is also a strong focus at CM, and its ice hockey program is regarded as one of the premier high school ice hockey programs in the country.  As such, its team has been ranked #1 team in the United States several times and won the Massachusetts Super Eight Tournament 17 times.  CM has also produced state champions in wrestling and lacrosse.

My talk at Central Catholic via Zoom was organized by Peter Hill, its International Student Coordinator and member of the Social Studies Faculty.  The audience was the 10th grade Western Civilization Honors class that was currently in the midst of studying WWII and the Holocaust, using materials developed by Facing History and Ourselves.  Attending also were Vin Bradley, Social Studies Department Chair, and Michael Kotsopoulos, Theology teacher and Assistant Director of Communications. Over the years I’ve come to believe that the quality of students’ questions reflects the quality of teaching, and thus their teacher, and these students asked some very important & perceptive questions, several that have never been asked of me in my 260+ talks.  Bravo!

The talk was arranged by Judi Bohn and Jeff Smith of Facing History and Ourselves.

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Arroyo High School, San Lorenzo, CA (again) – May 13, 2020

by George J Elbaum

Arroyo High School in San Lorenzo, across the bay from San Francisco, has a high diversity student body of approximately 1,800 students. It is organized into several “schools within a school,” and this is the 9th consecutive year that I have spoken to its 10th grade students studying the Holocaust.  This year, however, it was unfortunately not face-to-face but via the internet and Zoom, with each student at their computer at home, because the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic restricted all of us to our homes.  Looking at my web posts of previous visits to Arroyo, with dozens & dozens of photos of students and remembering the brief but memorable chats with students & teachers, I look forward to a real rather than virtual visit to Arroyo next year.

This year’s virtual “visit” was organized by teacher Jorja Santillan, who organized my actual (non-virtual) visits to Arroyo since 2012, so this was the 12th annual “visit” in a row.  Although this “virtual” class was much smaller than her classes to which I spoke directly in past years, I still observed how Jorja’s enthusiasm and energy transfer to her students, whom she prepares and guides through the history and ramifications of the Holocaust.   In her own words: “It’s so important that they understand how complex the Holocaust is through different stories, and how crucial it is that this history be kept alive.  I tell my students that now it’s their responsibility to carry it on along with their own histories.”

Letters from students

A week or so after the virtual session I received a dozen++ letters from the students who attended it  (and several who didn’t), read the letters, excerpted statements which resonated with me, and these excerpts are shown below.

  • I was not in the virtual meeting and it’s such a shame. I wish I had the chance to hear your story but reading some of your memoir, I can kind of get a preview to who you are. Your story is remarkably inspirational.  Was the feeling of escaping and coming to the United states too good to be true?
  • Getting insight and details from someone who was actually there is so different from reading in books.  You feel like you were actually there and it terrifies you how horrific it truly was. You find yourself treating life better because it’s something not to be taken for granted.
  • It’s good to see that instead of hiding what you went through and keeping it to yourself you are teaching people about the Holocaust and bringing awareness to it so that something like that never happens again. That is very inspiring and it makes me reflect on my life.
  • Your story inspired me in many ways, it showed me to never give up.The title of your book has such great meaning to me now. It has shown me to not think about what will happen tomorrow or in a couple of weeks but about today and what I will do today to make  it a good day with the people I love the most.
  • Life is something to be celebrated and I find it very good that you are using yours to share your experience and story with the world.
  • You were able to turn the bad memory to inspire other people.
  • I now have a different perspective on my freedom – in our generation right now we tend to take that for granted.
  • Your experience made me realize how lucky I am.
  • I notice that when it comes to obstacles in life people never forget them but when everything is going smoothly and we try to remember a specific day it seems almost impossible.
  • You made me realize that I have a lot to be thankful for and appreciate. I take things such as food for granted when many people are dying from starvation.
  • Thank you for sharing your experiences with us as it opens many minds and hearts. I never expected to feel the crush in my chest while reading what you had gone through.
  • I couldn’t have imagined the trauma and sadness you have much had buried beneath all your strength.
  • I love how you look at the positive side of things even after all the negative things that happened. Thank you for telling your story.
  • It was so inspirational to me how you used a dark time in your life to inspire others.
  • Your story inspired me because even though you went through hell, you were able to fight and not give up.

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College Park High School, Pleasant Hill, CA – May 1, 2020

by George J Elbaum

College Park High School has a current enrollment of 2022 students of which 50% are minority and 22% are economically disadvantaged.  Despite these demographics, it is far above California state average of college and career readiness, such as student test scores (English 74% vs. 51% CA average and Math 48% vs. CA average) and 97% graduation rate.  It is therefore rated 9/10 by GreatSchools.org and USNews.com.

This presentation to College Park 10th-12th grade students was organized by World History teacher Lauren Weaver, who also organized last year’s presentation.  Her students have studied WWII and the Holocaust, and were therefore aware of governmental persecution in Germany in the 1930s, including targeted boycotts, the Nuremberg Laws, planned stages of identification and separation in Ghettos, acts of violence such as Kiristallnacht, and eventual removal of Jews to concentration and death camps.  The main difference in my presentation this year was that starting in March, all classes were held online rather than on campus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so I spoke to 70+ students via Zoom vs. several hundred last year.  The main contact with the students was via the typed-in chats that Zoom allows, but unfortunately no real-time feedback from the students, and obviously no photographs.  I missed that feedback and look forward to returning to College Park and Lauren Weaver’s class next year.

Arrangements for my talk were made by Penny Savryn, Program Coordinator at the Holocaust Center of Jewish Family and Children’s Services.

Emails from students

Following the Zoom session several students responded with short messages, and I’ve excerpted the comments which most strongly resonated with me and listed these below.

  • I am really happy that you turned an awful memory into a turning point to inspire others.
  • Your story about a high school counselor telling you that you were not smart enough to pursue your dream of becoming an aeronautical engineer really resonated with me, because I have been told something similar.
  • What I learned from your story is that you should never feel sorry for yourself because you never know what someone else is going through, which could be worse.
  • It is such a blessing that you are still here today to share your story.
  • (from an immigrant) Even though I survived, I would not be able to be as calm as you and share with others. It’s a grey memory that I don’t want to remember.  Thank you very much for sharing.  Hope you stay safe.
  • It was inspiring to hear how you were able to survive as a young child and still stay optimistic after seeing the horrors you have been through. I hope life brings you many joys to come, and you continue to share and bring awareness to your story.  Again, thank you for sharing something that this generation will hopefully never have to face themselves.
  • I don’t think I realized how families were affected by the end of the war and the return of the soldiers after the Holocaust, and just the state of cities and towns they returned to.
  • It’s truly incredible the amount you’ve seen and been through and to come out and speak of your experiences. I want to let you know that it opens my eyes to a perspective of life and death that makes me so appreciative.  Thank you.
  • I feel very grateful that I was able to listen to you. It really helped me to hear what you personally went through and made it easier to connect what I had learned in our readings.  I feel more educated about the Holocaust now than by just reading and watching the films.
  • It opened my eyes and said ” wow this man made it through the worst thing in human history”.
  • I really liked how you put us in your shoes, even though you were very young and don’t remember much. It must be hard to talk about it
  • Your presentation opened my eyes about how living in secrecy and fear changed your views on life. I admire how you look at the positive side of all the negative that had happened and stayed true to yourself.
  • My Polish great, great grandfather was sent to Auschwitz, and then transferred to Mauthausen. Eventually, he was liberated by Americans, and he thanked an American in a tanker. The crazy thing was my mother actually worked with a relative of that American.

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Arroyo High School, San Lorenzo, CA – April 28, 2020

by George J Elbaum

Arroyo High School in San Lorenzo, across the bay from San Francisco, has a high diversity student body of approximately 1,800 students. It is organized into several “schools within a school,” and this is the 9th consecutive year that I have spoken to its 10th grade students studying the Holocaust.  This year, however, it was unfortunately not face-to-face but via the internet and Zoom, with each student at their computer at home, because the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic restricted all of us to our homes.  Looking at my web posts of previous visits to Arroyo, with dozens & dozens of photos of students and remembering the brief but memorable chats with students & teachers, I look forward to a real rather than virtual visit to Arroyo next year.

This year’s virtual “visit” was organized by teacher Jess Vaughn, who had participated in several of my previous visits to Arroyo, and I was truly impressed by the quality of the students’ questions: they were perceptive, sensitive, and mature.  I view students’ questions as a reflection not only of the students themselves but also of the teaching, so it was obvious that Jess Vaughn prepared her class very well.  (In Student Questions, most of the dozen from #3 thru #14 were asked at this session.)

The event was arranged by Penny Savryn, Program Coordinator of the JFCS Holocaust Center.

Students’ post-talk comments & questions 

If Mr. Elbaum could give advice to the world about how to deal with hate and prejudice, what would he say?  I don’t think that hate and prejudice can be eliminated totally as these are part of human nature, despite 6000+ years of civilization, but each of us can do our share to decrease them by following the Golden Rule, which is treating others as we would want to be treated, and by raising our children to do the same. 

I honestly thought that the ghettos were more comfortable and habitable than what George explained, but when he told us there were starving people and people dying then it definitely changed my mind.

Hearing his story being told by himself was a very fulfilling experience and I think what he does is great. 

It definitely helps me have more empathy for survivors of the Holocaust. They experienced years of pain and suffering that no human being should ever have to go through. I’m very appreciative of Mr. Elbaum for taking time out of his life to share his experiences with us.

How hard was it to start a new life?  Since I was moved as a child from one family of strangers to another, starting a “new life” was traumatic the first few times, and then it became almost a “normal” part of my life.  That pattern continued until I came to America in 1949. 

Terrible moments in history like the Holocaust, should never, ever be repeated again in the future.  (Unfortunately, “should” has little meaning in history of mankind.)

How does his experience with the Holocaust affect his everyday life?  The title of my book, “Neither Yesterdays Nor Tomorrows”, answers this question: as a child I learned instinctively to forget the pains of Yesterdays and not to look to Tomorrows because I never knew when or whether I would see my mother again.  I therefore focus on the today, knowing from experience that I will address tomorrow when it arrives.

His mother dyed her hair blond so she wouldn’t be suspected of being Jewish.  I wonder if that was painful for her to see part of her identity leave?  Did she feel empty?  Whereas I had never asked her about this specifically, I suspect that she focused on its necessity for survival rather than a feeling of “identity”.  I’ve been asked a similar question about having to change my last name several times, and I apparently learned for emotional survival that my identity was not in my last name but what’s inside of me.  

Learning about Mr Elbaum’s story shows me that the strength resides in your ability to be resilient and strive for change.

This helps me understand that thing was not a joke and people died for nothing.  (I presume “that thing” means the Holocaust, and I am stunned!) 

 Learning his story affects the way I see the world because it shows how demonic the world can really be.  I know that the Holocaust was a long time ago, but glimpses of it are still present in the world today, such as discrimination, racism, hatred. 

It makes me wonder how people can be so cruel, and how people can be so dehumanizing with no everlasting effect on how they are to society or how their ideas aren’t rejected.  (Apparently one can find kindred spirits in kindness & charity, but also in cruelty & prejudice.)

By learning Mr. Elbaum’s story, I am able to see the great lengths that a guardian may go for the well-being of their child as well as the strength one must obtain under such challenging times. (These words would have pleased my mother very, very much!) 

Humans can be easily corrupted under the sense of false superiority; the lust for power can drive a person to forgo their morals and undertake inhumane actions.  There are times where anyone can lose sight of their path, blinded by the aspirations of others. 

The meeting was very meaningful.  As a person, I see that there is more to life and only so much time.  I plan to make the most out of life, even if there are others that do not wish the same for me.  The world can be cruel, yet kindness and care prevail. 

How many people escaped the camps?  Very few people escaped, but the importance is in how many millions were killed!

I would have liked to have more time and listen to more of George’s story.

I am grateful that our English class got to hear him speak about his very heartfelt experience.  Telling a story about a traumatic event in history must be hard, so I appreciate him for that. 

It helps me to understand that prejudice towards a certain race, religion, or community is not acceptable. 

After learning his story, it changed the way I saw children in different societies.  I understood that most families have different luxuries and lifestyles, but seeing what other children had to go through without choice, makes me feel spoiled and very lucky to be in my position.

How long did it take Mr. Elbaum and other survivors to finally speak on this very hard topic and what made them want to do it?  It took me 65 years from the end of the war till I could write my book and start speaking about the Holocaust, and it was a documentary film, “Paper Clips,” that made me realize that my story has value.  I was then surprised to learn that most survivors who do it, do so only when old.

 I was moved by your story and I admire your resolve and your golden rule to treat others with respect like you would like to be treated.

Thinking that my generation may be the last to hear from a Holocaust survivor such as yourself make me want to hold on to your story.  History repeats itself when old events are forgotten, and I do not want the atrocities spoken of to happen in the future.  Keep doing what you do, I appreciate you and I think you inspire everyone you share your story with.

Thank you for speaking to our class about your experience during the Holocaust and how it affected you.  People like you are what inspire change in the world.

You’ve been through a lot of hardship, yet you use those experiences to grow and to teach others.  Some people who have been through difficult situations may not learn from them, they just stew or take their pain out on others and that’s the exact opposite of what you have done.

Many people try to deny that racism and oppression still exists, but it does.  We need to constantly have conversations about it so that we can move forward.  People like you inspire my generation to stand up for what we know is right.

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Holocaust Center for Humanity, Seattle, WA – April 21, 2020

by George J Elbaum

My very first talk was on Yom Hashoah ten years ago, April 10, 2010, organized by MIT Hillel at the Boston Holocaust Memorial.  It was a painful experience, but immediately afterwards I was encouraged by the audience to “Keep doing this!”, and today, 10 years later, this is my 260th talk.  It was organized by Seattle’s Holocaust Center for Humanity as part of its Yom Hashoah commemoration.  Of necessity it, was presented online via video Zoom because of the currently ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.  On the other hand, being online made it much easier to attend than a physical event, and the Zoom tally showed an audience of 500+.

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