History and the lessons of the Holocaust came to life during this year's 23rd annual Kristallnacht Week, November 11-15, 2013 at the College of Saint Elizabeth. Campus events – including survivor testimony, demonstrations of Holographic 3-D technology to capture survivor stories, as well as lectures, art exhibitions and interfaith prayer services – were attended by hundreds of CSE students, staff and faculty, high schools students and teachers, as well as the general public.
Pinchas Gutter, Holocaust survivor from Poland who spent his youth in the camps, shared his story with those who packed Dolan Performance Hall on November 11, the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht, or the Night of the Broken Glass. It was on that night that the Nazis wreaked havoc all across Germany and Austria as shops were burned, windows were shattered, stores looted, families torn apart, and more than 90 Jews were killed.
Stephen Smith, executive director for the USC Shoah Foundation, The Institute for Visual History and Education at the University of Southern California, also demonstrated his 3D holographic technology that captured Gutter's and other survivor's stories for future generations.
Gutter brought not only his testimony, but an ever-lasting image of hope for future generations that there can be miracles. "I carry the torch for the Holocaust ... I try to make the world a better place," said Gutter. "I try to educate youngsters of the world and find it brings results." He gave an example of students who recently traveled to Rwanda to try and fight genocide there.
For CSE students, the evening brought history to life. "The program was not only a testimony of survival from Pinchas Gutter, but it also pulled at the heart strings and was balanced with a presence of hope," said Elbie Love, '14, history. "Hope that survivors can love and live a fulfilling life." Fellow attendee Kaitlyn Thomas, '15, English, also enjoyed the evening. "It was interesting learning about Pinchas because it was from a different point of view ... the hologram aspect made me realize that soon we will no longer have Holocaust survivors left, but their stories will live on."
The program's impact went beyond CSE. "Each program has an immeasurable value," said Rahway High School teacher Debi Maller, who brought her students to the event. "Every time I bring history face-to-face with students it has an impact beyond the measure of a text book. The students all agreed that they learned more in one morning than they could have in a year of reading a text book." Eugenie Mukeshimana, founder of the Genocide Survivors Support Network in Newark, also praised the event. "I don't know how to describe Monday's event other than amazing. The keynote speaker's presentation left me feeling like I just witnessed something special that I may not see again. It was priceless ... "
Gutter's story is rooted at age 10 when he was forever separated from his parents and twin sister as they were herded to the gas chambers without even a chance to say goodbye. "I realized if I were to survive in the camps, I would have to kill my soul," he said. Tampering his emotions and several miracles saved his life; miracles, or instances, where he was advised by others to lie about his age, hide under blankets and straw in barracks when sick with typhoid, or get dressed up to avoid selection for the gas chamber.
"I've struggled to come to terms that I'm not exactly like everybody else," he said. "It's was difficult for me to love my children because everything I loved was taken away." But, he has strong faith and realized that everything his parents and sister were is part of him. "Being able to tell my story helps me and slowly erodes those barriers ... it makes a difference."
For those who attended events during the week, the lessons live on and make history relevant. "We can't be silent in the face of such atrocities," said CSE President Helen J. Streubert, "We are fortunate that the survivors trust us to come here and tell their stories. We are very grateful."