“We can’t let it occur once more”: Holocaust survivor shares her story with college students to assist hold historical past alive

Watch the CBS particular “Simple: The Fact to Bear in mind” within the video participant above or stream it on the CBS Information app.

Since 2005, the United Nations has designated January twenty seventh as Worldwide Holocaust Remembrance Day — a day to recollect the tens of millions of males, ladies and kids murdered by the Nazis. Greater than 75 years after the tried mass extermination of Europe’s Jewish inhabitants, the world reasserts its promise to “By no means Neglect.”

But latest polls point out our collective reminiscence is fading. A 2020 survey discovered that greater than 60% of American younger adults did not know that the Holocaust took the lives of six million Jewish males, ladies and kids. Half could not identify a single focus camp.

Worse nonetheless, 1 in 10 blamed the genocide on the Jews themselves.

Solely 19 states within the U.S. require the topic to be taught in colleges — and the standard of that schooling could be questionable. Final November, lecturers in a Texas college district had been advised that they wanted to make “opposing views on the Holocaust” accessible to college students beneath a brand new state legislation that requires instructing “a number of views” on controversial points — as if the Holocaust had been a matter of debate. The varsity superintendent later apologized.

For Ruth Steinfeld, an 88-year-old Holocaust survivor residing in Texas, that incident was not simply offensive, it was a warning signal.

“I need you to know this actually occurred. It occurred to me,” she not too long ago advised a gaggle of scholars at Hastings Excessive College in Houston as a part of her decades-long mission to share her story.

Ruth Steinfeld talks with college students at Hastings Excessive College in Houston, Texas.

CBS Information

Steinfeld was born in Germany in 1933, the identical yr that Hitler rose to energy. When she was 5 years previous, her household house was vandalized throughout Kristallnacht, or “The Evening of Damaged Glass,” a two-day marketing campaign of violence orchestrated by the Nazi get together that resulted within the destruction of seven,500 Jewish-owned buildings and the arrest of 30,000 Jews.

In 1940, Ruth and her household had been rounded up and moved to a focus camp in Gurs, France. Her father was instantly separated from the household, and so they by no means noticed him once more. 

Ruth as a child
Ruth was 7 when her household was despatched to a focus camp.

Courtesy of Ruth Steinfeld

Her mom made the heart-wrenching determination to entrust 7-year-old Ruth and her sister Lea to the Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants, a French Jewish humanitarian group that smuggled youngsters out of camps and into hiding with foster households. This determination saved the women’ lives, however with a horrible price. 

All these years later, Steinfeld nonetheless breaks down crying as she describes the separation to the Hastings college students. 

“I could not perceive why my mom would give me away, particularly once I promised that I might be good,” she remembers. It could be years earlier than she may perceive the big love behind that painful determination.

Ruth, left, and her sister Lea with their mom Anna in Ladenburg, Germany, 1936.

Courtesy of Ruth Steinfeld and Lea Krell Weems

She and her sister spent the subsequent 5 years posing as Catholics and shifting from one foster household to a different when neighbors grew to become suspicious. After the battle ended, their grandfather managed to search out them and convey them to America. 

They might finally study that their mom and father had been each killed in Auschwitz.

Ruth Steinfeld is one in every of a dwindling variety of Holocaust survivors who’re nonetheless alive and capable of inform their tales. Inside a decade, just about all will probably be gone. For her and different survivors, these are unsure instances, with an alarming surge in anti-Jewish sentiment.

“The Holocaust began with phrases, phrases of antisemitism,” she says. “And there’s a lot of that occurring now. We can’t let it occur once more. Earlier than, we had no thought what phrases may do, and now we all know.”

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