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Surviving the Holocaust
Dr. Eugen Schoenfeld shares his remarkable story with Southeast Bulloch Middle Schoolers
092711 SEBMS HOLOCAUST 01 web
After a program at Southeast Bulloch Middle School Tuesday, sixth grader Joseph Dickey, 11, asks Holocaust survivor Eugen Schoenfeld, 86, how old he was when he was liberated from a Nazi concentration camp in 1945. Once Schoenfeld answered he was 19 and was there for a year, Dickey said, "At least you got out." "Yes. I got out," responded Schoenfeld, who lost his entire immediate family in the experience.

   The atrocities of a Jewish genocide during World War II were given a human face Tuesday when Holocaust survivor Dr. Eugen Schoenfeld captivated a group of sixth-grade students at Southeast Bulloch Middle School.
    Schoenfeld was 18 years old when Nazi soldiers raided his mostly Jewish town at the base of Czechoslovakia’s Carpathian Mountains in March 1944. Removed from their home and packed into cattle cars, Schoenfeld and his family were transported, like millions of others, to a Nazi concentration camp.
    Standing before about 50 huddled children in the school’s media center, Schoenfeld, 86, recounted his story and urged students to study history, so as not to repeat it.
    “Boys, girls, I am the past. I can tell you all what happened to me, so that you, as future citizens of this great country, can honor and keep the
constitution that maintains the great freedoms we have here,” he said. “My past was in a country where there was no constitution; where people did not have
freedoms. The consequence was all of the suffering and torment that we went through.”
    Schoenfeld, as he has done for audiences throughout the state during the past two decades, relived the tale of his experiences once arriving at Poland’s Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination and labor camp.
    The day Schoenfeld arrived at the camp, would be the last time his family was whole. Schoenfeld’s mother and sister, along with all of the women, were guided away by guards, he said. His 13-year-old brother was separated from Schoenfeld and their father because he was deemed too young and unfit for labor.
    “Most of the people that came to the camps were either killed outright, or went right to work,” said Schoenfeld. “We got so little food that soon people died of starvation. Every morning we would look at our ankles. If our ankles swelled up, you knew that you only had a week or so to live because your heart and kidneys were failing.”
    “Over 7 years, Hitler killed, in camps like this, more than 6 million Jewish people,” he said. “I lived in that camp, and others, for a little more than a year. Then, in 1945, I was liberated.”
    After World War II, Schoenfeld attended medical school in Prague and worked for the United Nations in Germany, before venturing to the U.S. to study political science.
    He has since written a book, “My Reconstructed Life,” chronicling the past experiences — Schoenfeld presented the school library with a copy of the work as a gift.
    “For a long time, I did not talk about my experiences,” said Schoenfeld. “My children did not even know about it.”
    “I do it now, because I feel it is my duty to transmit the story to students,” he said.
    Schoenfeld’s visit to the middle school came as part of a presentation of a Holocaust learning trunk for use by the school and region.
    The Georgia Commission on the Holocaust is providing trunks, which contain maps, pictures, books and other learning materials, to various educational districts in the state for use by middle school students.
    The trunk presented Tuesday will be available for use by Southeast Bulloch teachers at any time during the school year.
    “We know that the best way to learn sometimes is by having that hands-on, first-hand experiences and talking with someone who has been there,” said SEBMS Principal Donna Clifton. “The children had that opportunity today with the speaker, and will continue to have that opportunity with the trunk.”
    Georgia State Senator Jack Hill attended the presentation.
    “The Holocaust is something that we can all continue to learn from,” he said. “I think keeping in mind respect for others and their history is just as important as learning something new about science or technology.”
    
    Jeff Harrison can be reached at (912) 489-9454.

 

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