Holocaust Survivor Encourages Students to Better the World

By Claudia Leslie, Contributor

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Robbie Waisman poses with Furman students after his speech given on Mon., Nov. 9 at Younts Conference Center. Photo courtesy of Claudia Leslie

Hundreds of people turned out Mon., Nov. 9 at Younts Conference Center to hear Holocaust survivor Robbie Waisman, 84, share stories stories of the horrors he experienced 70 years ago. These included Furman students, other Holocaust survivors and children of American concentration camp liberators. Other speakers of the night included Dr. Jason Hansen, a history professor at Furman, Amy Hammer, President of the Greenville Jewish Federation and Rabbi Kesselman of the Chabad Jewish Center.

The youngest of five in his family, Waisman was forced into Buchenwald concentration camp at 13. His sisters were the only other survivors in his family. He watched as two of his three brothers were shot, and he never found out what happened to his mother and father. While at Buchenwald, he was stripped of his identity. In fact, when his camp was liberated 70 years ago in April and American soldiers asked for his name, he rattled off the number assigned to him six years prior.

Although Waisman’s story was extremely intriguing and moving, he did not come to Furman to recount history. There was a deeper message behind what he was saying. He elaborated on his duty as a survivor to spread his story and to share his pain in the hopes of helping others ensure something like that never happens again.

 When asked what his best piece of advice would be for young people who wanted to make sure the world became a better place, he had a simple answer.

“Be vigilant, learn, have courage, do good things, don’t let others lead you down the wrong path, don’t be a bystander and remember that life is important,” he told the audience.

Waisman went on to speak of the atrocities happening in Syria and Darfur, and our responsibility not to be indifferent or apathetic. Instead, he implored students always to remember disgusting events like the Holocaust, so that we are inspired to act.

The event was sponsored by the Greenville Jewish Federation in conjunction with Furman, Converse College, St. Joseph’s High School, St. Francis Bon Secours, the Humanities Council of SC, Greenville Health System, and South State Bank.

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