LACKAWANNA COUNTY — Hundreds of middle and high school students gathered at Marywood University Tuesday and Wednesday to learn about the Holocaust from people who lived through that horrible time in history.
The stories from survivors and liberators are likely to leave a lasting impression on the students.
Ruth Hartz experienced more in the first four years of her life than most of the students attending the Holocaust Symposium have in their 14, 15 or 16 years.
During the Holocaust her parents sent her from Germany to safe hiding in France. She now lives in Philadelphia and tells her story to students.
“Our young people are going to be our memory, and our future, and our flag bearers,” Hartz said.
That’s why The Jewish Federation and other volunteers have given Holocaust survivors the opportunity to speak in Lackawanna County for 26 years. Over the course of two days, more than 1,000 students came to Marywood University, and listened to stories from 17 survivors.
“I think as the survivors and liberators get older and older, less and less are available to come. They are either ill or unfortunately have died. We lost three survivors this year alone,” said organizer Susie Connors.
Organizers said it is history you can’t teach with a book, and the students said the message really hits home.
“My grandfather is a Holocaust survivor so I have had some first-hand experience, and I really appreciate hearing from all the other people so I can get the full story on all different levels,” said Mitch Pisarz, a student at Wyoming Valley West High School.
“We don’t want anything like this to happen again, and we want everyone to be aware it,” added student Abby Baur.
Organizers of the Holocaust Symposium said they will continue to hold the event as long as they can find the survivors willing to tell their stories, and maybe more importantly, as long as young people are willing to listen.