Society Staff | Jessica Sees | firstname.lastname@example.org
Ohio University celebrated its seventh annual Holocaust Remembrance Day with Holocaust survivor Conrad Weiner. This was possible with the help of the Ohio University Multicultural Center, Hillel at Ohio University and the Black Student Cultural Planning Board.
Though the Days of Remembrance, as designated by the US Congress, do not begin until April 16 of this year, OU recognizes them early due to students’ rising busy schedules.
With an air of comedy, Weiner started his speech off with a joke about how it was so good to see so many young people in attendance and how it was probably because it was free admission or at the request of a professor.
After the slightly overcrowded Walter rotunda settled back down, Weiner grew serious.
“You are the last generation to see Holocaust survivors,” Weiner said. As that realization set in, he regaled the audience with his trials and tribulations in his labor camp.
At 77 years old, that would make Weiner three to four years old when he was sent to the labor camp with his family.
“At that age, I was a danger to the third Reich,” said Weiner sarcastically.
He recalled that it started with the implementation of the Star of David to be worn on all of their clothing. Eventually, Jewish professionals in various fields lost their jobs. In the case of many medical practitioners, they were only allowed to practice on other Jews.
When the Nazis came to Weiner’s home and made the family leave with only what they could carry, he said that his aunt and grandmother were shot point blank in their yard because they did not leave. The Nazis wanted to make an example out of them.
Their journey to their camp was by train, and Weiner said he was thankful for that. Those who were made to walk were shot and thrown into the river. While those on the train lived, they were still subject to awful conditions.
For two days and one night, they were offered no sustenance whatsoever.
“No food. No water. No nothing,” Weiner said.
When they arrived, their new home was a barn complete with stalls for animals. They slept on hay. With little to no resources, Weiner’s mother as well as other camp members made due with what they had. They even turned a barrel into a stove; “Out of necessity comes ingenuity,” Weiner said.
Weiner and the other camp members still managed to find solace in what they could.
“Believe it or not, there was a wedding in the camp. The groom had no shirt, but he had to be elegant, so he wore a tie,” said Weiner.
After his camp was liberated by the Soviet army, Weiner and his family made their way to the United States.
“Uncle Sam was very kind to me. He gave me one whole year to learn English before drafting me into the army,” said Weiner, tongue in cheek.
And as to where he was sent? Germany. While it seems ironic, Weiner urged the crowd to understand the difference between Germans and Nazis throughout his speech.
Overall, Weiner was an optimistic speaker who had a plethora of wisdom.
“Do not be indifferent. Indifference does not help the oppressed, it helps the oppressors,” Weiner said.
Megan Molnar, a junior studying French, attended Weiner’s speech.
“For such a horrifying topic, he had a lot of sweet things to say,” said Molnar.
“It also took me off guard when he said that we were the last generation who would know Holocaust survivors. Holocaust survivors have such important stories to tell, and I’m grateful I got to hear him speak,” said Molnar.
It’s up to us to keep these stories alive because, in Weiner’s words, “I am almost sure their (young peoples’) world will be better than mine, if the fires are put out.”