Banning High School, Wilmington, CA – April 26, 2011 morning

by George J Elbaum

On arrival at Banning High School we were met by Gabriela Narez, Banning’s GATE/AP Coordinator, who led us to the auditorium where I would speak.  My first surprise was its large size, so I asked how many students are enrolled at Banning, and the answer was 3200, so much larger than any school where I’ve spoken so far.  As students began filing in, I met and chatted with teachers Adela Retana, Elia Garcia and Gloria Dyson.  About 10 min. later the auditorium was about 3/4 full (with 325 students, I’m told), and I launched into my presentation, having shortened it to about 35 min. to allow time for Q&A.  However, I obviously didn’t time it well because I was still 5 min. from finishing when the bell rang.  Thus there was neither time to finish nor for Q&A, which I deeply regret because it’s the students’ questions that reflect their reaction to and understanding of my story, and also allow me to  add what I may have omitted unintentionally.  Still, the next day a number of students emailed me commenting on my talk and asking how they could get my book, so I felt gratified by that reaction.  This presentation was arranged for me by Janis Davis, a long-time friend who is currently the Coordinator, Ceremonies & Events, at CSU Dominguez Hills.

PS: Excerpts from several students’ letters that especially resonated with me are below.

  • I myself had a rocky childhood, and after hearing your story I gained strength and inspiration that will keep me going, so your words won’t be forgotten.
  • Your story made me realize that I have nothing to complain about, none of us do.  We are all very fortunate to be living the lives that we have, so we should be really appreciative for that.
  • You inspired me to overcome life’s difficult situations.  I was lucky to witness a survivor with my own eyes and thank you for visiting our school; it was an honor.
  • I know that to remember sad things about our lives is more difficult than we think.  However, I know that life can only be understood by looking back, but at the same time it can only be lived by looking forward.
  • At times, your story made me feel emotional, just imagining what you went through.  I also noticed that you would get emotional at times and understandably would take a pause.  It showed how difficult these memories really were for you.
  • You made me appreciate life.  

with Antonio

with Gabriela Narez

with Gloria Dyson


with Adela Retana


with Elia Garcia

About gelbaum

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4 Responses to Banning High School, Wilmington, CA – April 26, 2011 morning

  1. Elia Garcia says:

    Mr. Elbaum,
    Thank you so much for coming to Banning High School! It was truly an honor to have you speak about your experience of the Holocaust. My students were in awe to have you speak to them about something they have only read in textbooks, novels, or seen in movies. Many of my students wrote cards and letters to you, but I don’t know where to send them. Could you please give me an address to send them?
    Thank you so much for coming! I hope you continue to visit our school and talk to our students. They cannot stop talking about their experience of hearing your story and those students that couldn’t attend were so disappointed they missed meeting you!
    Thank you again! Elia Garcia :~)

    • gelbaum says:

      Dear Elia,
      Thank you for your kind words – it is indeed such feedback and that from students that encourages me to keep doing these talks. I’ve just emailed you my mailing address.
      My very best,

  2. Antonio says:

    Your made me want to read more storys from those years

    • gelbaum says:

      I remember you from my visit to your school 2 years ago, and am glad that your interest has continued. I just returned from Poland where I spoke at an international high school student exchange, and it was very rewarding. It was my first visit to Poland since leaving it 64 years ago, and there were some poignant moments.
      My best to you,

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