Wheatley Students Hear from Three Holocaust Survivors During International Holocaust Remembrance Week

On Wednesday morning, our entire school set aside an hour in order to hear from three Holocaust Survivors in a program put on by the Nassau County Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center. Using Zoom technology, the three survivors shared short testimonies about what they experienced during the Holocaust. To make their words even more impactful, the survivors stood by artifacts that they had personally donated to the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center. Students remained in their classes watching the presentation in small group settings. We were also able to share the link to our community.

Our students are part of the last generation who will be able to hear directly from survivors of the Holocaust. After the assembly, we asked them to share some reflections on what they had just heard. Students were saddened by the stories but inspired by the resilience of the survivors. The importance of being an upstander was an important takeaway from the presenters. We will be creating a school-wide display to share some of the students’ reflections.

You can view a recording of the presentation here:

Short Biographies of the Holocaust Survivors:

Anita Weisbrod, Age 98

Anita was born in Vienna, Austria. Germany annexed Austria in March 1938 and Austrian Jews immediately became subject to German anti-Jewish measures. The situation for Jews intensified in the wake of the November Pogrom (Kristallnacht). That event touched Anita’s family directly. Her father was arrested and sent to Dachau concentration camp. Soon thereafter, Anita’s mother sent her on a Kindertransport to England. She remained there for the duration of the war and eventually reunited with her family. After the war, she came to the United States, where she has lived ever since.

Werner Reich, Age 94

Werner and his family were residents of Berlin, Germany when the Nazis came to power in 1933. His father, an electrical and mechanical engineer lost his job thereafter, prompting the family to move to Zagreb, Yugoslavia. His father died in 1940 and in 1941, the Nazis occupied Yugoslavia. Werner’s mother placed him in hiding with several families. The last one worked for the resistance movement and Werner helped them in this work. In 1943 he was arrested by the Gestapo, beaten up and jailed for 7 weeks and then sent to Theresienstadt and then Auschwitz II where he went through, in one day, three selections by Dr. Mengele. He was one of 89 who were chosen out of 6000 – the others did not survive. He was then sent to Auschwitz I. In January 1945, after a 7 day death march, he ended in Mauthausen, Austria. After liberation in May 1945, he returned to Yugoslavia and after two years he escaped to England where he worked as a laborer and later became a tool and die maker. In 1955 he married a girl who had been saved by Sir Nicholas Winton. They immigrated to the USA where he eventually became an engineer. He has two sons and four grandchildren. Werner is a frequent speaker and founding member of the LI Multi-faith Forum.

Renee Silver, Age 91

Renée Kann Silver, a Holocaust survivor who was born in the German state of Saarland in 1931, recalls her experiences living as a Jewish child among the culture of German Nazism and French patriotism. Eventually, her family was deported to the Gurs concentration camp in southern France, where her mother made the decision to send Renée and her sister to hide in the Protestant community of Le Chambon. She also describes her family’s reunion and escape to Switzerland.

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