Holocaust Survivor Shares His Story With Students
Last Thursday, Pacific students had the once in a lifetime opportunity to listen to a lecture given by Sami Steigmann, a survivor of the Holocaust, in the DUC Ballroom. The Ballroom was packed with students and staff as Steigmann spoke in detail about his experience as a Jewish person dealing with anti-Semitism. However, he took the time to make it clear that he fights not just anti-Semitism, but hatred in general.
The theme of the lecture surrounded the idea of having love for one another in spite of our differences. Steigmann opened up to the audience about how he had at one time let hatred destroy relationships in his life that were very dear to him. With reference to this experience, he urged students to show love, especially to those who seem the most undeserving of it. He even says that he has spoken with and befriended former members of the Nazi party in order to show them the perspective of the people they had been oppressing.
“You hate people because you don’t know them. You don’t know them because you hate them,” says Steigmann, “So that’s why you should treat each person as an individual, not as a group, and be willing to talk. And if you talk you’ll find out you have a lot more in common than differences.” In this way, he encouraged students to avoid stereotypes and instead find common ground upon which you may have the chance to gain a new perspective or share your own with someone else.
“Because he was so young when he was taken to the camps, he couldn’t remember everything that he had been through but he still feels the pain from the experience each day,” says Lauren Hudson, International Relations ‘21. “I thought it was really interesting that he was able to find a message through the pain that he had and even go further to discuss more moral issues that had to do with human interaction.”
Hudson went on to say that she admired Steigmann’s bravery for speaking to so many people about his personal experiences. She says that she believes that many people can benefit from using patience and kind words in order to encourage others to listen to your point of view.
For the opportunity to listen to such a powerful speech we have to thank President of Pacific Hillel, Shiri Warshawsky, Pre-Medical ‘21. “UOP has a very small Jewish population but I really wanted to make this a big event, especially because Sami came all the way from New York,” she says. “To be honest I did encounter a lot of people who seemed indifferent [to the idea of hearing Steigmann speak], but I’m really happy with how it turned out.”
Warshawsky says that she was able to reach out to Steigmann through a mutual connection she had made during a trip abroad with a Jewish student organization. Upon hearing that he would be traveling to California, she immediately reached out to him to ask if he would come to visit Pacific. She explains that Steigmann treated her like family and that his kindness made putting on the event an even greater experience.
Steigmann’s lecture taught students to listen, learn, and above all, be kind. If you didn’t get to see Steigmann’s lecture in person or missed our livestream, stay tuned to our Facebook page where we will be posting a video depicting the highlights of the event!
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