Relatives of Holocaust survivors share families’ experience

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Samuel Prum, Ph.D., shares his family's story of suffering in a Holocaust-era concentration camp. (Natalie Betancourt for the Daily Titan)
Samuel Prum, Ph.D., shares his family’s story of suffering in a Holocaust-era concentration camp. (Natalie Betancourt for the Daily Titan)

Students got a glimpse of how the Holocaust affected victims’ children and grandchildren during a panel in the Cal State Fullerton residence halls Monday night.

The Multicultural Perspectives Floor and Housing and Residence Life hosted those whose lives were touched directly by the holocaust.

Mark Filowitz, Ph.D., the associate dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, and Samuel Prum, Ph.D., a member of the Temple Beth Tikvah Board of Trustees in Fullerton, shared their experiences.

Filowitz opened the panel and recalled his experience having two parents who lived through the extermination camps.

“We were implicitly taught all our lives it was our duty to tell the story so that people would not forget that this occurred,” Filowitz said.

The tone during the panel was a somber one. Filowitz’s mother lost her five brothers and two sisters, as well as both her parents during the Holocaust. Filowitz’s parents were barely able to speak about what they went through because of the traumatic experience, which is not uncommon among many Holocaust survivors.

Prum told the audience of his family members’ suffering in the Treblinka extermination camp. Within 10 minutes from the moment you came out of the train, you were covered in ashes, Prum said.

“(Holocaust survivors) witnessed such horrible atrocities, suffered terror, starvation, pain, disease, and so many near-death experiences that it is not something they want to recall. When they do talk a bit, it is hard to imagine the extent of the ugliness that the Nazis demonstrated toward human beings, and the extent of the systematic machinery they deployed to kill millions,” Prum said.

The systematic dehumanization in the camps led people to feel totally helpless which made it hard for the majority of the Jews to fight back against their oppressors, Filowitz said.

Many Jews lived in such deplorable conditions that they lost their will to survive.

Prum said the Holocaust is not only about the Jews; instead, it is a symbol that transcends all nationalities and cultures.

“It’s about any minority who is singled out and targeted by manipulative leadership trying to control a large population by directing the anger of the majority against a minority group,” Prum said.

The lesson to take from the horrific events of the Holocaust, Prum said, is that society must remember what can happen when tyrants get in control, and learn from the past to prevent that from happening again.

Despite the bleakness of the testimonies, the panel ended on a strong note.

“Don’t let bullies bully you, stand up for the people that can’t stand up for themselves and these kinds of things will never happen,” Filowitz said.

Jack Parisier, a Holocaust survivor who was scheduled to be the third panelist, was not able to join the panel Monday.

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