Holocaust Remembrance Day observed at Park

Jewish Student Union hosts Holocaust survivor


Ashley Reyes

speaker Eva Gross shares her experience during the holocaust. Despite the short notice of the event April 28, a large group of students attended the event.

Ivan Zank and Sergei Bovee

April 28 is Holocaust Remembrance Day and to commemorate, the Jewish Student Union (JSU) at Park hosted Holocaust survivor Eva Gross, and asked her to speak on her experiences. 

77 years ago the Holocaust concluded, leaving many Jewish families destroyed and traumatized. Schools are recognizing that telling these stories are becoming more and more important as survivors age. Senior Toby Khabie said schools should start showing survivors soon. 

“Holocaust survivors, unfortunately are few and far between that can speak because they’re aging. I know that other schools are already getting in the works and saw the power and how successful this was. But I hope to have some of them in the future years,” said Khabie.

Gross grew up in a small village in Hungary with only 59 Jewish families and when she was in sixth grade her father was shot and killed. A few years later the schutzstaffel (Nazi soldiers) came to her home and arrested her family (mother, grandfather, grandmother and herself).

When they made it to Auschwitz, a man told Gross that if she and her mom were related they should use different names so the guards wouldn’t separate them. While they were walking away her mother noticed her grandparents and attempted to talk with them. However the schutzstaffel quickly pushed her back to her side, which ended up saving her life as her grandparents were on their way to the death chamber. 

After the war many people at Auschwitz got sick, including Gross’ mother, and at first it seemed like the two would be permanently separated but after convincing a doctor to go back and save her mother the two were reunited. 

Khabie said that the Holocaust and its impacts should be taught in schools more frequently. 

“First of all, we don’t learn about much about the holocaust in school which in itself is a huge problem. But even when we do learn about it, you don’t get to humanize the stories. You learn about the numbers. You learn about 6 million Jews, and the 5 million non-Jews that died,” Khabie said. “That number doesn’t really mean much unless you meet a survivor—unless you’ve met someone who’s actually lost people.”

Freshman Clara Hammer said the experience was beneficial and educational. 

“I think it was helpful for many students who didn’t know anything about that,” Hammer said. “I feel like we didn’t learn enough about the Holocaust and I think it was a good thing to be organized but I think that people didn’t take it seriously enough.”

According to Khabie students don’t hear the facts very often. This event granted people to see it from a real person who is telling their story.

“You hear about these stories but you’re not hearing it from the storyteller. You’re hearing it from a teacher, from a video. But to meet someone in person, to see with their own eyes, ‘this is a real person, she went through this,’ Khabie said. “That’s an experience you can’t trade for anything else and I think it really struck a cord with a lot of people.”

Associate director of Jewish Student Union in the twin cities, Mirrel Jaffa, said the event was last-minute and explained the complications that appeared while planning this event. 

“We had another speaker lined up, but they ended up quitting at the last minute, so by the end it was a bit of a scramble, that was the first day I met Gross,” Jaffa said.

Students attended the event to learn from Gross and hear her story, and Khabie was surprised at the amount of people who showed up. 

“I expected a lot less people. I was first of all super happy with the turnout. I didn’t expect that many people to show up,” Khabie said.

Even though a large amount of people showed up, there are still many anti-semitic actions executed within the Park community. There are many things that Park can do to help though.

“There have been many anti-semitic attacks and it would be nice if more people stood up for us, and we just don’t get much support compared to many ostracized communities. Many kids don’t even feel safe to wear a Jewish star out and about,” Jaffa said.