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A Holocaust survivor shares his story

The Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) event in the Skylight Room

UMBC Hillel welcomed anyone who was interested in hearing a Holocaust survivor’s story and remembering victims of the Holocaust.

This year, Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) ran from the evening of April 15 to the evening of April 16. This day is devoted to remembering the victims of that horrific time in history. Unfortunately, there will come a time where Holocaust survivors will no longer be able to pass on their stories.

In honor of Holocaust survivor Dr. Avigdor Niv, UMBC Hillel held an event in the Commons Skylight Room on Monday, April 20. The chairs were gathered together in a circle, and they began with a reading of 100 names of victims from students’ families. Later on, Niv said “Added to that list you guys read, I could add over 20 of my own family members.”

Michele Osherow, associate professor of English and director of UMBCs Judaic Studies Program, then began reading a series of poems related to the Holocaust. Following her reading of four poems, Niv sat down in front of the crowd and began his story.

He was born in Transylvania, Romania where his grandfather had a family business. “In 1942, the Germans came through and took Jewish workers to forced labor camps,” said Niv. “They took my father and that was last time I saw him. He passed away a year later.” His grandfather then decided to move to the center of Hungary.

Shortly after the Germans moved his family into a ghetto in 1944, three trains arrived. “Train one and three went to Auschwitz. Luckily, they put us on train two for whatever reason. Train two went to Vienna,” he said. Since Niv was only a child during this time, he didn’t fully understand what was going on until he heard the explosions in the streets.

“The source [of prejudice and persecution] is from ignorance, lack of knowledge. I encourage people to educate themselves and strive to find the truth,” said Niv. As a survivor, he was able to achieve his goals of getting into medical school and becoming an orthopedic surgeon. He met his wife in school and together they had a son and two daughters, each of whom is married with two children.

Michelle Czarnecki, an attendee and senior French major, said, “I’m thankful that he shared his story and I was able to hear it. Miracles can come out of negative situations.” Niv stressed the importance of people reading, listening and standing up for what they feel is right.

One of the hosts, Alexa Kempner, a junior English major, said, “My co-host, Jen Wachtel, contacted the Baltimore Jewish Council, specifically their Speaker’s Bureau, and submitted a formal request for a Holocaust survivor affiliated with this organization to come and speak at our Yom HaShoah event.” Once he concluded his story, members of the audience asked questions and thanked him for sharing his experiences of such a tragic time in his life and in history.

Niv also plans on speaking at his grandson’s Hebrew school in two weeks. He said, “I think my children look up to me for coming out of this in one piece.”