Holocaust Survivor, Film, Tell Powerful Story (Video Included)By Brittany Gropp
April 14, 2010
There were 6 million Jews murdered in Nazi Germany during the Holocaust. Each year, organizations and community members join together to celebrate Holocaust Awareness Week in order to honor the lives of those killed and continue to educate people about the horrific part of world history.
On Sunday, Hillel at Virginia Tech kicked off the awareness week by sponsoring an event at the Lyric Theatre, which featured an inspirational speech by Holocaust survivor Zev Kedem.
“I think it’s unbelievably important to hear survivors’ stories. We’re the last generation who will be able to hear them from the actual survivors, so it’s our job to listen and pass them on to the next generation,” said Bianca Rosen Siegel, Holocaust Awareness Week chair and third-generation Holocaust survivor.
The event opened up with a showing of Steven Spielberg’s award-winning film “Schindler’s List,” which tells the story of how Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist, risked his life by bribing and manipulating Nazi soldiers in order to save more han 1,100 Jews during the Holocaust.
Following the film, Kedem began his speech about his journey through the Holocaust, which began when he was 8 and ended when he was saved by Schindler at 11.
It was the first time in almost 15 years of speaking that Kedem’s program directly followed the film, which Kedem has both appeared in and consulted on. “I was very moved by (the film)," Kedem said. "It ‘s a brilliant piece of filmmaking. It’s incomparable.”
Kedem said he was only 8 years old when the Nazis invaded Krakow to transport the Jews into concentration camps, which was five years too young for the Nazis to consider him strong enough to work in the camps. Kedem and his family knew that this meant he would be executed on the spot if the Nazis discovered his age.
In order to avoid Kedem’s execution, his mother negotiated with the driver of a “loot wagon” to allow Kedem to hide underneath the wagon and be smuggled into a concentration camp.
Upon arrival, Kedem’s mother told him that “the basic rule of survival was to keep silent and invisible,” said Kedem.
For the next three years, Kedem was forced to experience the inconceivably terrifying conditions of six different concentration camps, including the infamous Auschwitz.
Finally, at the age of 11, Kedem was placed on Schindler’s list, after his adoptive father used his status as a doctor to negotiate the inclusion of his son’s name.
Kedem demonstrated the incredible strength he achieved during his traumatic experience when he ended his speech by saying, “My life has been very thought-provoking. … It has been a lesson in gaining self-knowledge.”
A Q-and-A session closed the program, during which Kedem said the most important thing he took away from his years in concentration camp was gaining the “rational control of one’s emotional self to select the best option there was under impossible circumstances.”
As audience members lined up to speak with Kedem following the conclusion of the Q-and-A session, they raved about the impact of Kedem’s speech.
“Of the (survivors) who are left, only a handful of them will speak about it and talk about it. And if you don’t learn from your mistakes you are doomed to repeat them and forget them, so I think it’s really important that we tell everybody what happened, so that it doesn’t happen again,” said Hannah Goff, a Virginia Tech senior and member of Hillel.
While the last audience members trickled out of the theatre, Siegel could be seen standing with a beaming smile.
“I’m very proud of the event," Siegel said. "I knew that Zev Kedem would obviously do a great job, and I think it’s great that so many community members came out to it.”