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Saving Survivors

  • Date Submitted: 09/26/2010 05:47 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 65 
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Saving Survivors
By Emily W., Roslyn Heights, NY

For many years, it was too difficult for him to talk about – the ghetto, the gas chambers, the smell of burning flesh, his childhood completely shattered in a matter of days. Irving Roth, a survivor of the genocide during World War II, was understandably reluctant to speak of his experiences as a child living through the Holocaust. Beginning in 1939, he was robbed of his childhood, forced to learn of the venomous side of mankind. It was only six years ago that Irving finally recounted the details of his experience during the Nazi reign.

Irving Roth has devoted his life to educating youth about anti-Semitism. Traveling across the U.S., he speaks at universities, informing students about the horrors of the past and what mankind must do to prevent future genocide. He has created Adopt a Survivor – a program connecting teens with survivors of the genocide of World War II. “The kids of today must know about the Holocaust. They must understand that it was not just ‘masses of people’ murdered but individual human beings,” he says.

As we approach a time when Holocaust survivors will no longer be alive to tell their stories, the Adopt a Survivor program seeks to preserve these histories for future generations. When teens “adopt” a Holocaust survivor they gain eyewitness testimony and a genuine understanding of what that individual endured. History comes alive for the student, who carefully records the stories. In this way, each history is preserved through a “surrogate survivor.” Once the interviewing process is complete, the student then interprets the story, and expresses it through artwork, poetry, or prose. Some of these are on display at a Holocaust museum to educate others.

I first met Irving Roth three years ago when he came to my school to share his story. As a child, Irving enjoyed playing soccer with his friends. When he was ten, the Nuremberg laws, which were established to define a “Jew,” came into...

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