In observance of International Holocaust Remembrance Day –– which commemorates the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp on Jan. 27, 1945 –– Hillel hosted a virtual address by Yaffa Silberberg, a Holocaust survivor.
In recent years, Hotchkiss has observed the day with a special, often powerful, community-wide presentation. This year, Hillel co-heads Sydney Goldstein ’22 and James Bushell ’22 invited Yaffa Silberberg to speak on Jan. 25 through Project Witness, a Holocaust educational resource center. Silberberg’s harrowing story begins in 1941 in a Polish ghetto, where she was born. Her mother died of typhus two weeks after her birth. When Silberberg was about eight months old, her family gave her to a Polish Christian family who kept her safely secured from the Nazis. Almost all of her family members died during the Holocaust. After the war she moved to Israel to live with her aunt for ten years; she then moved to the United States, where she graduated from high school and college, married, and raised a family.
Silberberg is one of thousands involved in the Hidden Children Foundation, a nonprofit that connects the youngest survivors of the Holocaust, those who eluded the Nazis' plan for the annihilation of all Jewish children. Fewer than 11 percent of Europe’s prewar Jewish population of children survived, compared to 33 percent of the adults, according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Among the small number of surviving European Jewish children still alive at the end of the Holocaust, thousands had survived because they were hidden. Their identities were disguised, and they were often physically concealed from the outside world. Most would never be reunited with their families.
After sharing her story, Silberberg called on students to never be silent when innocent people are threatened, and to never foster hate and prejudice. Her story and the stories of other survivors are important in preserving the memory of the Holocaust. In the years to come, “It is you who will shape our moral justice,” she said.