Frieda Tabak spoke no English when she escaped from a Nazi prison camp to Pennsylvania decades ago, but this past Sept. 17, she told a group of students her story.
A few students attended the lecture outside Tomlinson Theater to remember the atrocities of the Holocaust and discuss the ongoing human rights violations in the world today.
Hillel, a Jewish organization at Temple, collaborated with the Temple Alumni Association and the Myer and Rosalind Center for American Jewish Studies by co-sponsoring the event, named “The Hope for Never Again.”
Speeches were given by Holocaust survivor and alumna Tabak and Holocaust scholar and Temple professor Hanoch Guy.
The event began with a one-hour reception inside Tomlinson Theater, during which the speakers socialized with attendees. They then moved outside, where benches and speakers were set up.
Tabak gave the first speech, telling her story and experiences during the Holocaust.
“This is for all the people who denied the Holocaust,” Tabak said to begin her speech. “Now you have met someone who has lived it.”
Tabak’s story began in Romania, where she was born. When she was around eight years old, Romania and Poland were divided and the Soviets felt that her family was too rich, so they confiscated her family’s property, she said.
When the Nazis invaded the country, she and her family were caught and put in ghettos with other Jews, she said. They escaped and eventually made it to Pennsylvania, but she spoke no English. Because she was 15 years old, she was placed in 11th grade.
“I remember this one teacher – there were no other foreigners, I was the only one – and she took a special interest in me,” Tabak said. “She gave me a list of about 30 topics. Every night, I had to choose a topic and write an essay. I would give it to her when school started the next day and we would correct it. By the time I got to college, English was no problem.”
She spent her junior and senior year at Chester High School and went on to study chemistry at Temple.
After Tabak sat down, Guy took the microphone. He began his speech by recounting one day in September 1939.
“I was teaching myself to read, and the paper came,” Guy said. “There was a huge headline that took half of the page, and I asked my mother why the headlines are so big. My mother said, ‘Because it’s war. You would not understand.’”
Prior to his birth, Guy’s father escaped from Romania with no surviving family.
“Every time I asked him, he would turn his face and walk away,” Guy said. “For many years, I felt a great loss, but I also had no memory because my father would not talk about it. Out of the void came a want to know and I tried desperately to find what happened, but there were no answers.”
He then began to study the Holocaust by looking over documents and other sources, and then started to teach it.
Guy said even though the Holocaust has ended, innocent lives are still being lost in many nations like Syria and Sudan.
He and Tabak both said no matter who is suffering, those who are silent in the face of injustice are as evil as those who commit the crime.
Hend Salah can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.