Today we had 7 hours of class (1 hour of Old Testament, two sets of 2 hours of Judaism, and two hours of Palestinian). It was quiiiiiite the gauntlet. It was kinda frustrating, because it was really interesting stuff (we finally got the “founding of the state of Israel” war from the Israeli view in any sort of extended form), as well as the origins of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda… and I was SO tired—it was just too much class (plus I got to bed last pretty late…). But the best part was definitely the end of the day: we had a holocaust survivor come, Elias Feinzlberg. It was so awesome. It gave me such a better feeling than other holocaust learning experiences.

It was still genuinely tragic: he broke down a little bit when he said that his entire family was killed by the Nazis… but that was the only time he became emotional. The rest of the time… he was genuinely animated and happy. He didn’t sound resentful or angry. He was retelling near-death experiences like they were… youthful adventures. He would tell his starvation in the ghettos, the grueling work in the mines, and concentration camp life with just as much bravado as a campfire story. One of the first questions we asked him was how he could retain his optimism throughout the ordeal. He replied that he just couldn’t believe that he was still alive. He felt that only when he stopped working would his life be in danger… and he never stopped working. There was one time that he was so skinny and pale that they told him that he couldn’t work… and he had the idea to pinch and slap himself a bit until he got a little red. He got back in line, and they accepted him. It made me realize that not only is there an entire range of holocaust experiences (not all the stories are as bad as the ones highlighted in Yad Vashem), but also that… something that I always felt was true has been confirmed by someone who has actually lived through the worst that life has to offer: you can always remain hopeful and positive.

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One of the camps he was at was Auschwitz… where they gave him a number.
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Us during class breaks–we were all just tired today!

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