By Danya Shabi
Monday, April 8 was Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. To honor the day, the Union campus community had the fortunate opportunity to hear a Holocaust survivor, Murray Jaros, tell the story of how he survived.
Naturally, as every year goes by, more and more Holocaust survivors are passing away due to old age. Thus, it is always an honor and a privilege to be able to hear a survivor recount his or her struggles.
No matter how many times I hear a Holocaust survivor tell their story, I am always impacted by the strength demonstrated and the unlikelihood of their survival. No retelling is ever the same, since each person underwent a unique suffering.
How did they survive this tragedy? The more I hear, the greater my appreciation for their survival becomes. The fact that there are people that did, and who are willing to share their experiences, is something that our generation should take advantage of.
The struggle for survival of Jaros was not the story that one usually hears with regard to the Holocaust. He was from a privileged family living in Germany. His mother was the founder of the sole department store in their town and within a 15-mile radius. Fortunately, his mother’s marketing skills were a key element to their survival because she was able to negotiate and bribe her way through.
However, their higher position in their town did not completely protect them against the German violence. His family was assaulted by townspeople and uniformed men demanding their money and gold.
My friends and I cringed at certain descriptions and memories throughout his recollections. His descriptions caused the audience to jump, gasp and have tears in our eyes.
Although Jaros had been placed in a concentration camp, he and his family members were fortunate to have escaped the fate that many others suffered by never having been in a death camp. After escaping the concentration camp, Jaros and his family were on the run through the woods and swamps for the latter half of World War II. Starving, cold and scared, they endured this horrific battle and were able to ultimately settle down as a family in Albany.
Jaros’s story is unique to me because his was the first story I heard from a Holocaust survivor in which the family stayed together throughout their experience. However, this does not detract or undermine the scarring nature of his struggle to survive. It is always nice to see a strong turnout of the campus community to an event as significant and powerful as this. It is a huge sign of respect to both the speaker and to the commemoration of the Holocaust.
I encourage people to take the opportunity now, while we still can, to attend as many Holocaust events as possible, especially with survivors present. Jaros’s story is an inspiring one. Unfortunately, there are those who were not as lucky as he was, but it is enlightening to know that survivors were strong enough to pick up again and start life anew.