On March 19 and 20, Pelham Middle School 8th graders attended lectures by Holocaust survivors Dr. Moshe Avital and Esther Geizhals. The presentations are held annually in conjunction with the students’ reading of “Night” by Elie Wiesel, a powerful autobiographical account of a teenager’s experience during the Holocaust as well as their social studies unit on World War II.
Dr. Avital is a native of Czechoslovakia who was imprisoned in six concentration camps during the Holocaust. At the age of 14, Dr. Avital was sent to Auschwitz and was separated from his family. He was eventually liberated from the Buchenwald camp by the American 3rd Army in 1945. Dr. Avital immigrated to the United States in 1950 and eventually earned a PhD in Hebrew Literature from Yeshiva University. To date, he has published 15 books, six of which are about the Holocaust.
Mrs. Geizhals, was moved from her home in Poland with her family to the Lodz ghetto when she was 10 years old. In 1944, she was taken to Auschwitz where her younger brother and mother were executed and she was separated from the rest of her family. Eventually, Mrs. Geizhals escaped with four others from the “death march,” during which prisoners were forced to march without food or water from the Rochlitze concentration camp where she was imprisoned to avoid the approaching allied armies. She was eventually reunited with her father, who survived, and immigrated to the United States in 1947.
Both speakers shared their vivid recollections with the students, who also asked them questions following the lectures. The students then reflected on the experience when they returned to class.