In today’s episode, Holocaust survivors share their thoughts on the importance of speaking about their experiences. It is our tradition at First Person that each guest speaker ends the program with their “final words.” In our final podcast of the series, we close with those thoughts, reflections, and hopes for the future.
REGINA SPIEGEL: We who survived Auschwitz or other concentration camps advocate hope not despair, generosity not bitterness, gratitude not violence. We must reject indifference as an option.
NARRATOR: Over 60 years after the Holocaust, hatred, antisemitism and genocide still threaten our world. The life stories of Holocaust survivors transcend the decades and remind us of the constant need to be vigilant citizens and to stop injustice, prejudice, and hatred wherever and whenever they occur.
This podcast series presents excerpts of interviews with Holocaust survivors from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s public program First Person: Conversations with Holocaust Survivors.
In today’s episode Holocaust survivors share their thoughts on the importance of speaking about their experiences. It is our tradition at First Person that each guest speaker ends the program with their “final words.” In our final podcast of the series, we close with those thoughts, reflections, and hopes for the future.
NARRATOR: Holocaust survivor George Pick.
GEORGE PICK: You heard that I am here because of others. People who were taking chances with their lives but also others who were doing seemingly small things, gestures: opening a door, letting us out, letting us go somewhere. And I want to put this into your minds that you don’t have to be heroic, necessarily, to be life savers or to help others. You can do small things and you would never even know what the consequences of those small actions are.
NARRATOR: Holocaust survivor Charlene Schiff.
CHARLENE SCHIFF: Freedom is not free. I get up every day and I thank God for the freedom in which we live. This country is the best in which to live, and no matter how much we criticize and how much right now the economy is not very good, we live in the best country in the world, and we owe, again, we have to say thank you to all our military.
When I go to young people and students, I tell them that we must fight today the four evils that are still with us. These evils are indifference, injustice, intolerance, and ignorance. Please, become involved. Please, try to get involved and teach the world what we need to do. We must learn to live together in peace and harmony.
NARRATOR: Holocaust survivor Marty Weiss
MARTY WEISS: How does hate start in a society? It is really very simple. You dehumanize the person or the population and the public joins in with fervor, just like a mob. Not to remember them would be like dying twice. Therefore, as human beings, it is our duty not to forget and to do something about it. If not, we have no right to call ourselves civilized.
To me, the answer is simple: You teach children prejudice and hate, not only do they bring carnage to millions of people, they also destroy themselves, as we saw with the Nazis and we see today in the Middle East and Africa. Therefore, it is vital that we reverse this trend with education. Thank you very much.
NARRATOR: Holocaust survivor Nesse Godin
NESSE GODIN: You young people, you are going to be the leaders of our country, the senators, the representatives, maybe president. Make sure that this country of ours, the best country in the world, the United States of America, should be an example for the world. This place and everywhere in the world, every human being, regardless how they pray, regardless how they look, should be respected and honored.
NARRATOR: Holocaust survivor Susan Taube.
SUSAN TAUBE: Humanity had deserted us, civilization had failed us, but we never lost faith in a better world to come. Holocaust again spread hate against the free world, against our country and freedom- loving people. Evil forces again deal with hate and even penetrate the western world. We see daily explosions of terror against peaceful, innocent people. This Museum and we survivors are dedicated not only to keep memory alive, but ([also to] serve as a warning to all who enter this sanctuary of memory. Speak up! Do not allow the forces of hate to spread through our country. World leadership failed us during the dark period of the Holocaust. We say to our leaders, “Never again!” We appeal to our visitors to this Museum, give your children a sense of joy, and your children a sense to be and have respect for the American veterans who are fighting for our freedom wherever they are. Never again.
NARRATOR: Holocaust survivor Louise Lawrence-Israels.
LOUISE LAWRENCE-ISRAELS: We—the million and a half Jewish children who were killed and people let it happen. What did people think when the trains came in? Families came off the train, mothers with children in their arms, or dragging them after three days standing, after a transport? People in the towns never saw these children laugh or sing or play. They just disappeared. Why didn’t they ask? Why didn’t they tell each other, “What is going on? What is happening to those children?” Why didn’t they stand up and say something?
It could have been stopped. And it takes a lot of courage to do that. I realize that. But again, that would have been a snowball. One good person stands up, says something, says, you know, “Hey, what is happening to these children? We need to find out.” And then people would follow. One courageous person, and the rest of the people would follow.
NARRATOR: Holocaust survivor Fritz Gluckstein.
FRITZ GLUCKSTEIN: It has been my good fortune to have come to the United States, and I am forever grateful for the help received and the opportunity given to me. I value my American citizenship most highly.
I’m often asked what I have learned from my experience, and I always say the same. Don’t do unto others what you don’t want done to yourself. And then, don’t put things off. Make that visit. Make that call. Write that letter. If you have a dream, go after it now. If you have two bottles of wine, drink the better one first.
NARRATOR: Holocaust survivor Regina Speigel.
REGINA SPIEGEL: After the war, you know people used to ask me, did you take revenge? Of course I could have taken revenge, but what would I have become, just like they. And I sure didn’t like what they did to us. So why should I do to them something that it wasn’t in my…they trained us to be maybe killers but we were not killers.
What’s going on in this world always kind of worries me. You know like when I read what’s happening in Darfur, I am reminded constantly of my family, what happened to us. You know how we were dragged out from our homes. Children were killed for no reason whatsoever. You know, no food. Husbands, wives separated. Their homes taken away and it sounds, when I always say this, people think that I am talking about Poland and it is, that’s what it was in Poland. But unfortunately, it is also happening, this can be a picture of the life in Darfur.
NARRATOR: Holocaust survivor Estelle Laughlin.
ESTELLE LAUGHLIN: Hate has to stop somewhere. I have to believe that I am not being romantic in saying that people are all good. I know that there is good and there is and we do noble things and we’re capable of very cruel things. I have to believe and address the best in us. I know that everyone who is here today and everyone who works in this Museum., we are united with a belief that for humanity to survive, for humanity to progress, we have to address the best in us. And, I do, there’s a balance too. Pain and suffering is part of life. Loss is part of life that never leaves you, but misery is a choice and you have to find a balance. It takes courage to speak up, but as long as you hold on to the best in you and as long as you don’t forget what is good and right, you’ll always be fine.
NARRATOR: Holocaust survivor Henry Greenbaum.
HENRY GREENBAUM: As I was laying in the hospital, I didn’t think I’m gonna make it out. So, I had a direct line to God. I said, “Dear God, I got so much more to tell. Don’t kill me now. Let me still stay alive for a while so I can speak to the audiences. I have so much to tell.” And, as you can see, the world is broken in pieces now. Killing each other for we thought, we went through hell. We thought we did it already, the world would be more peaceful, more friendly, but you see the hate and discrimination, antisemitism is still going on.
So, before I leave this world, I hope, I hope, that you all can take over, and don’t let it happen to anyone. Don’t discriminate against anybody. Don’t hate anybody. You saw what hatred can do. We lost one of those guards. Helped an 80-year-old man, to open the door for him, because he thought maybe the man can’t open the door. Nice man and he killed him for no reason, what reason was that...because of hatred, and it’s all start with children, because children do not get born, do not get born with hate or discriminate against anybody. So they must be learning it through their friends or they must learn it from their parents, maybe. I don’t know, but I hope this should stop, and I hope before I leave this world. I know it’s not gonna happen by the survivors time, because we getting older. All we can do is tell you our story, and maybe, perhaps one day it will stop.
NARRATOR: You have been listening to First Person: Conversations with Holocaust Survivors, a podcast series of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Every Wednesday at 1 p.m. from March through August, Holocaust survivors share their stories during First Person programs held at the Museum in Washington, DC. We would appreciate your feedback on this series.