Saturday, 22 November 2008

Auschwitz: Revisited...




Dr. Eva Olsson, Holocaust-Survivor...



I have never heard the lecture theatre that quiet before. The silence was deafening. It was so quiet, I could hear my own heartbeat...

My university hosted a visit by a Holocaust-survivor for two days. Dr. Eva Olsson, a tiny lady, all 84-years of her, was our guest speaker. Born in Szatsmar, Hungary, Dr. Olsson started her speech by telling us that she was here to "bring awareness about hate, and the power of hate".




"I hear the word 'hate' frequently, and I don't like it. 'Hate' murdered my family; it murdered millions of innocent people, one-and-a-half-million of which were children less than 12 years of age. 5 of those children were my nieces", she said in her opening speech, as the theatre fell silent.


"When I leave here today, I will be grateful if I have touched one heart in this hall, because if I did, then 1 more child would not have died in vain", she said.

I heared sniffles all around.




Her speech lasted slightly longer than an hour. She showed us pictures of concentration camps, of the box-cars where lives were taken, the gas-chambers where her mother was led with her 5 nieces, the place where her father was killed, and the mass graves where millions were shot brutally and bulldozed.



"Those are not my pictures. They were taken by the Nazi's who documented almost everything", she said, reminding us that behind the horror, were real people.





From left: Eva Yap, Me, Dr. Eva Olsson, and Shirin...





"Not every German is a Nazi, and not every Nazi is German", Dr. Olsson told the crowd. And I must note that sitting in today's crowd were some of my German friends who were in tears.



"The worst thing to have are bystanders. Bystanders are never innocent. Not doing anything is a choice. Remaining silent is as much as condoning it", she said to the crowd, and she reminded us to never be a bystander when someone else is getting hurt.



Dr. Olsson has been speaking to schools, universities, colleges, churches, community halls and conferences for the past 12 years. She has addressed thousands of people, and received about 11 000 letters from students who have written to her thanking her for sharing her story.






Students lining up to give Dr. Olsson a hug after her speech.




"For many years, I kept quiet because I was afraid. I was in denial. I was afraid that if I spoke about it, it will happen again. BUT the grass will grow again. We must not forget the past, because otherwise, history will repeat itself. And we will never move on", she said.



"When the occupation was over, we were given a choice. To go back to where we came from, or to remain in special camps till someone came for us. I didn't want to go back; they didn't want us or the would do what Bulgaria did and protect their Jews and now allow the box-cars to leave. My sister Elona and I left for Sweden", she said, sharing that she recently returned to Germany to revisit her past and make her peace.

"I visited the Bergen-Belsen memorial site. I was touched to see so many tour buses of young people from all over Europe, who had come with their teachers. I was touched because it is these young people who can prevent the past from happening again", she said.




*Note: Dr. Olsson noted that Bulgaria and Denmark, among others, protected their Jewish people and did not allow the Nazi's to take them away. Countries like Sweden, on the other hand, 'smuggled' the Jews in and offered them protection*




Dr. Olsson's closing speech struck me: "The Nazi's stripped me of family, of human rights, of dignity. But they cannot strip me of my will to live. And the purpose of my living now is to bring awareness. As for all of you, what example would you live behind? Because the only thing worth keeping is what we have to give away, and that is our love"...



Dr. Olsson was given a standing ovation at the end of her speech, which was followed by a Q&A...

Students later, of their own accord, lined up to give her a hug. I don't think there were dry eyes in that theatre today...



PS: You may visit her at www.evaolsson.ca...



26 comments:

Jeremy Hotz said...

Hi daphne, thanks for sharing this story it was real beautiful. Yes we should all remmeber this so history doesn't repeat.

WP said...

Touching and inspiring... and if her purpose is to bring awareness, you are helping her spread the message through your blog; thank you for the message!

mott said...

Gosh..the moment I saw this word "Auschwitz"..tears already started flowing.

Holocausts... it happens all over the world. People in power have bad memories.

Clarisse Teagen said...

I applaud her as well.
Thank you So much for sharing this with us.

Puteri said...

Yet there are people who deny the holocaust ever happened or happened at the scale survivors reported. For these people hatred for the Jews lives on.

Kmar said...

I have visited one of those concentration camps in Austria years ago. It still send chills down my spine!!

I do remember that the minute I entered the compound, it felt so ´eerie´... a feeling of knocking the world of ´demon´!! I ´smell´ death everywhere. It was terrible and I had nightmares after that visit.

History can´t be change but we have to learn to live with it.

the Razzler said...

Dear Daphne..

I am sure Dr.Eva needs great courage to share her story!!

Sometimes ... when we simply took what we have for granted!! :(

peng said...

This is so true, whether in history or present times.. we cannot remain as bystanders and allow the system to take away our neighbor's rights. By remaining silence or not doing anything, we are as guilty.
Thank you for sharing this. Malaysians have a lot to learn from this.

Afiq Deen said...

Touching!

desiderata said...

hi daphne:

we did meet oh so remotely at BUM2007, I think...
I enjoyed this Post, so am picking it for use at cpiasia, where i earn some kaya as editor...:)
Come over to say Hi to fellow bloggers Dec 5 from 8pm? Chow, greAtings from KLSCAH, KL...

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Jeremy,

You are most welcome, and thank you for sharing in it too...You're very right. History will repeat itself if we fail to take heed...

I sure hope we have learnt...

Daphne Ling said...

Hi WP,

I was hoping that by sharing the message, it would help create awareness too! Thanks!

After all, awareness comes in many forms...

And you're most welcome as well...

Daphne Ling said...

Sorry peeps! Have to go...Will reply to the rest of the comments soon...

Mlle Monster said...

It is heartening to hear stories of faith overcoming suffering. Yet modern history has evidenced that we have learnt precious little. Just to rattle a few: Cambodia, Rwanda, Srebrenica, Congo, Darfur. Its one thing to say let there be no second holocaust yet by whatever means at whatever location, mass extermination of life is still genocide. And of course there terrible atrocities happening now under the cloak of war.

We do not need awareness as much as we need the courage and will to rally our governments to do something extraordinary like placing the value of humanity above political and national interests. Too radical you think?

Nightwing said...

Thanks for sharing this.

She is right, must never forget.

So that this sort of thing will not happended again.

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Mott,

You're right, it is still happening everywhere, although we know it as different names, and to different degrees...

Sad, isn't it?

As for people in power, their bad memories won't help us...At all...

Daphne Ling said...

Hello Clarisse,

You're most welcome, and I applaud her as well...Thank you for reading this...

I think it's especially important for people of our age group take heed of her message, since we're the ones going out into the working world, or just started...

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Kak Puteri,

I don't know why people deny it happened! What can we possible learn by denying its existence?

You're right. There are people in this world who still hate Jews, just like there are people in this world who hate Muslims, Baha'i's, Christians and everyone else who is different from them...

Daphne Ling said...

Hello Kmar,

W.o.w...You actually visited the place? I can't imagine how horrifying it must have been. So much death and horror within those walls...

I think I would be having nightmares for weeks after...

=(

But I agree: We need to remember what we are capable of...

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Uncle Jimmy,

It sure took her a lot of courage to speak up, especially since people in power sometimes want us to believe the Holocaust never happened...

She admitted it herself...

That's why I applaud her, that at this age, and after all she has gone through, she is still trying to bring awareness to the people around her...

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Peng,

Thanks for dropping by...

I was thinking alot about what she said about the people standing silent too, and what she said about 'innocent bystanders' not being innocent.

It takes alot of guts to speak up against atrocities...It really does...

Maybe if we thought of other people as our own family, then it would change, and we all won't be 'innocent' bystanders anymore...

We sure have alot to learn, you are right...

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Afiq Deen,

Thank you for sharing in her story!

Daphne Ling said...

Hello Desiderata,

I remember your nick, although I am not able to put a face to the name. Sorry!

You're more than welcome to put this piece up, sure! The more people read Dr. Olsson's story and learn from her, the better, I believe...

As for attending the Bloggers' Gathering on Dec 5, that is not possible. I am not coming back to Malaysia anytime soon...Sad! Thanks for the invite though...

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Mlle Monster,

Thanks for your comments. Yes, you are most right, it is still happening in so many places, but called different names! People are still dying because of hate...

As for having the courage, I agree with that too.

But I also feel that both courage and awareness are equally important. We need to be aware that we have a role to play too...

Daphne Ling said...

Hey NightWing,

You're most welcome! And like everyone here agrees, we must not forget all those who died, or the reason why they died...

Otherwise, history will just keep repeating...

Anonymous said...

Did she ever tell the crowd that the jews declared war at Germany 1933?

Did she ever tell the crowd that the jews did "The Russian Revolution"?

Did she ever tell the crowd that the Red Cross report from 1948(!) does not contain the word "gas chamber", "genocide" or "extermination"?

Did she ever tell the crowd that Churchill, De Gaulle and Eisenhower all wrote bokks after the war, totally 7000 pages, and never mentioned the word "gas chamber"?

Did she ever tell the crowd that 200 000 jews served as soldiers on Germany´s side?

Did she ever tell the crowd that the magazine American Hebrew had an article 1919, by Martin H. Glynn, that talked about 6 million murdered jews?

Did she ever tell the crowd that...

Well, I could go on for hours, but veritofobic people would never understand anyway...