Hushed crowd of students hears Holocaust stories

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Hushed crowd of students hears Holocaust stories

Holocaust survivor Irving Roth

Holocaust survivor Irving Roth

Contributed by Holly Corkill

Holocaust survivor Irving Roth

Contributed by Holly Corkill

Contributed by Holly Corkill

Holocaust survivor Irving Roth

Mary Shannon, Staff

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Hundreds of students held their breaths as they sat silently, hanging onto every word being said to them. Some even in tears, they wondered what would come next.

On April 18, in the high school cafeteria, Irving Roth told his story about events that took place many years ago. Events known as the Holocaust. Roth just happens to be “an expert” about the topic because he lived through it.

In the summer of 1939, Roth was 10 years old, and he began to notice changes in his community. Jews were not allowed in many public places, like the park and the beach. Laws were passed saying Jews had to wear yellow stars and couldn’t own anything of luxury, Roth said.

”I had to take my sheepskin jacket and deliver it to the police department,” he said.

In the midst of all these changes, “people began to change,” Roth said.

Many people started to discriminate against Jews in the community. Jews were thrown out of schools. Roth said his best friend, a beautiful girl his age, even began to shun him because he was Jewish.

While all of this was happening, the Nazi party had already come to power, and had taken over all of Czechoslovakia. Soon after, in June of 1941, Germany began to take over the Soviet Union. In just a few weeks, Germany had reached Kiev. There, the Nazi party killed 33,000 Jews in three days.

“Men, and women, and children, and babies. Total villages, and towns, and cities,” Roth said.

During this time, all of the Jewish people in Roth’s town were told to go to the town square so they could be “resettled” and given some place to work in Germany. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, he said.

Roth, his family, and all the other Jewish people in his community were all marched to the synagogue, and held there for one and a half days. After that they were marched to the train station, and put on cattle cars for three days. When Roth got off the train, he discovered they had been taken to a death camp, called Auschwitz.

There, he was separated from the rest of his family.

“Ninety percent of the people (were) going in one direction; 10 percent in the other direction. I was the ten percent,” Roth said.

He saw his family, and many others die at the hands of Nazis in gas chambers, that could kill thousands in minutes, he said. Afterward, the bodies were sorted through for valuables, then sent through a crematorium, where they were turned into ashes, he said. Roth however, was forced to work; plowing fields and draining swamps. From early in the morning to late at night. He was often left hungry and tired.

Roth said some time later, a death march began where he was forced to either march or die. He marched to a new camp. In April of 1945, the death march started again. This time Roth hid, but he was found.

“I’m standing in front of the gate, knowing full well that I would not make it. Unless there is a miracle,” he said.

American planes flew over, and Roth survived another day. By the next morning every single person was gone. At 3 p.m., two American soldiers found Roth, and he said he was rescued.

“Never become a bystander who does nothing. When you see evil, any place, here, there, or halfway around the world, do something,” Roth said, after he told the crowd that this was his most important message.

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Hushed crowd of students hears Holocaust stories