Holocaust survivor shares his experience with students

Ana Espinoza, Assistant News Editor

The legacy of the Holocaust has underscored the importance of being an upstander, and Schreiber students learned this from a first-hand account.  On April 25, Holocaust survivor and poet Mr. Stanley Ronell visited the library to give a presentation to students completing honors projects in English and social studies.

“My motivation is to educate the younger generation how bigotry, intolerance, and anti-Semitism brought about the tragedy of the Holocaust and how man’s inhumanity to man was responsible for the systematic murder of six million Jews and millions of others,” said Mr. Ronell.

During his lecture, Mr. Ronell told the story of his childhood during the Holocaust.  With the help of several non-Jews and a fair amount of luck, Ronell survived, along with his uncle, his aunt, and two cousins.  However, having inherited his father’s dark complexion, he was forced to remain in a pantry closet for months in a non-Jewish Polish household, next door to an officer of the SS.  He eventually left Poland and crossed the mountains into Hungary.  From there, he and his mother moved to the United States.  Mr. Ronell graduated from City College of New York and his children attended Schreiber.

“It is always unique and informative to not just have someone remark on a period in history, but to actually have the speaker himself given his personal account and experience of the time period,” said sophomore Jacob Bloch.

The detailed presentation was moving and elicited positive responses from students, who heard the message clearly.

“I felt that it would’ve been better if they got the whole school to see it,” said sophomore Rachel Ellerson.  “The presentation really showed the importance of knowing history and not being a bystander.”

Throughout his narrative, Mr. Ronell shared several instances of close calls and narrow escapes.  For example, while in hiding, his mother brought him a number of books to read, including a Catholic catechism.  This book served him well later on, when he was obliged to prove  himself Christian by participating in an Easter mass.

Mr. Ronell was also taught German by a German nanny in his earliest years, a language he used to his advantage when a Nazi Youth called him a “dirty Jew.” Mr. Ronell responded in German by calling him a “dirty Jew” in return, thus assuaging the youth’s suspicions.

One of Mr. Ronell’s major points was the importance of educating students about the events of the Holocaust in order to thwart “Holocaust deniers” and prevent another mass genocide of the same scale.

“I find that lack of education about this horrific event in our history is very much responsible for bigotry, and anti-Semitism,” said Mr. Ronell.  “The objective also being, to leave a legacy supported by what they learn from survivors’ testimony, to ensure that another Holocaust never happens again.”

Mr. Ronell added, “Elie Wiesel, the foremost survivor, summed it up best by saying, ‘Whoever listens to a witness, becomes a witness.’”

Mr.  Ronell also referred to General Eisenhower’s statement upon visiting Ohrdruf concentration camp after its liberation in 1945.  Eisenhower visited the camp to be able to provide first-hand accounts of the horrors of the Holocaust to future generations.

In the statement, Eisenhower said, “We must instill in our children that hate is never right, and love is never wrong.”