How far have we come?

Most of us canít imagine what it would be like to be pulled from our homes, forced to leave our families and all our worldly possessions behind, only to be thrown into a terrifying setting where work and death were the only two options.

Unfortunately, thatís exactly what happened to millions of people during the Holocaust, and after hearing one survivorís account last week, I couldnít help but wonder how far the world has truly come since then and if the world would prevent the same thing from happening today.

Last Monday, Rubin Sztajer, and his wife Regina, came to the Otselic Valley High School to discuss Hitlerís rise to power and what life was like in a concentration camp. ďThe best way for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing, and thatís exactly what happened in the 30s and 40s,Ē Rubin said.

Rubin was 12 years old when the war began, and he described in detail how the Holocaust happened through his eyes. He recalls when the Germans came to his town and began killing citizens and demoralizing the Jews. Rubin and his family, consisting of eight people, were sent to live in the ghetto, where their living quarters consisted of one room. They were giving new laws to follow, and with no industry in the ghetto areas, they were few opportunities to earn a living and buy food.

Rubin and his family survived by stretching their ration coupons and supplementing their food supply with fruits or vegetables they would search for in the dead of night. But his days with his family lasted only until he was 16. On April 12, 1942, German soldiers came to the familyís door, in search of Rubinís father and older brother and sister, who had gone into hiding. Rubin had stayed behind with his mother and younger siblings, thinking they would be safe because they were children. They were wrong. Rubin was taken from his home, and never found out what became of his mother and young siblings.

Rubin spent time in six different concentration camps, during the three years before the war ended, working by leveling the land to make munitions factories for the Germans, or in later years at the last camps, moving the bodies of the dead into pits.

After surviving for three years in the ghetto, and three years in the concentration camps, Rubin came close to death, falling into a coma just after the camp he was in was liberated. Rubin explained that he probably would have been left for dead if his older sister hadnít been in the same camp. She stayed by his side and took care of him. Rubin said he was in a coma for seven months, and it was three years before he was out of the woods.

Rubinís story is similar to what so many experienced during the Holocaust, but 6 million of those people didnít survive to tell their story. In the face of such a tragic event, one can only hope that the world as a whole has learned a lesson, and that those events could never occur today; that a person with the hate and prejudice that Hitler embodied could never come to power and lead a country and that no one would support such a vicious campaign. I hope all those things are true, but with hate and prejudice still very visible in the world today, I think we all need to fight the little injustices that take place every day, in order to be sure nothing of this magnitude will ever happen again.

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