On January 20, Hillel board members presented a video interview with Holocaust survivors Aneta and Joseph Weinreich and their adult children. The family recounted their struggle to overcome unimaginable hardship and find hope and ultimately happiness.
International Holocaust Remembrance Day is observed on Jan. 27, which marks the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp. On this day, the six million Jewish people and other victims of Nazism are commemorated. But Hillel sought to honor the day earlier by sharing the video with the community before the Mid-Year Break.
In light of the hatred, anti-semitism, and Holocaust denial that exists in the world today, is important that this inspiring story of hope is shared, said co-heads, Sydney Goldstein '22 and Simone Straus '21.
Goldstein learned about the Weinreich's story through the mother of a young boy she tutored last summer through the St. Luke’s Society. The boy’s mother, Michelle Roth, sent her a copy of her mother’s book, The Right Time to Speak.
“When I pondered how to create something for the community, I saw my copy of her book sitting on my nightstand, waiting to be read. So, I read it from start to finish, and reached out to Michelle about potentially connecting with her parents, Aneta and Joseph Weinreich, two Holocaust survivors who live in Australia,” said Goldstein.
“Fortunately, Michelle immediately agreed to the idea, and after extensive back-and-forth communication with her and her siblings, Lilian Weinreich Ezekowitz and Henry Weinreich, as well as with my co-head, Simone Straus ‘22, our interview was a go. Via Zoom, we had the privilege of speaking with Aneta, Joseph, and their children. It was an experience like no other, and I will carry their words with me in the future; their positive outlooks will always serve as a motivation for me.”
For her part, Straus said she never had an opportunity to speak to a Holocaust survivor. In 2021, 76 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, there are very few Holocaust survivors still alive.
“Sydney and I were immensely lucky to speak personally with two survivors. What I found the most striking about our conversation with Aneta and Joseph was the time they spent telling their actual Holocaust survival story,” Straus said.
“Of our hour together, they spent about 50 minutes speaking of how they do not believe in hate, how lucky they are to be alive, and how happy they truly are with their lives. In the wake of unimaginable hardship, they remain focused on light, on happiness, and on hope. I found their outlook just as inspiring as their perseverance and bravery during the Holocaust – there truly is light even in the darkest of nights.”
After sharing the video project with the community, board members also conducted a Q&A afterwards, during which students and faculty were able to ask the family questions about their experiences.
The full video is available to the Hotchkiss community on the Hotchkiss Hub under "Past Recordings."