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Holocaust survivor shares his story

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Holocaust survivor Hal Myers, center, sings a French sailing song he learned as child in France as his wife Nora Myers, right, and Red Oak Middle School teacher Jennifer Rifkin listen Monday during an eighth-grade assembly at the school.

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By AMELIA HARPER
Staff Writer

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

RED OAK —  Eighth-grade students at Red Oak Middle School were able to witness history Monday as a Holocaust survivor shared his touching story of loss and rescue.

Hal Myers, 87, was born as Hans Siegfried Hanauer in Karlsruhe, Germany in 1930. Myers recounted the tale of his childhood as a Jewish boy during Adolph Hitler’s rise to power. He also shared the account of his family’s deportation in October 1940 to Gurs, a concentration camp in France.

As Myers shared the story of his sister’s rescue on a Kindertransport to England and he and his brother’s rescue by Quaker relief workers, students at Red Oak Middle School sat spellbound as they heard the story from one of only 1,200 Jewish children who were brought to the United States during this period. Both his parents were later killed in Auschwitz, Myers said.

Myers credits his mother’s strength with helping him keep his hope during those difficult times.

“My mother walked around the concentration camp like a battleship,” Myers said. “She was wonderful, she was large and she was able to do anything. She made us wash everyday, when all we had to wash with was cold, melted snow from the Pyrenees. We were ragged and we were hungry, but we were clean.”

Myers was brought to America with his brother at the age of 11 and the two brothers were fostered by a family in Cleveland, Ohio. He grew up to become a chemical engineer and later reunited with his sister, his best friend and with Alice, a Quaker woman who aided in his escape from the concentration camp.

Nora Myers, Hal Myers wife, said Myers has only been sharing his story publicly for the past two decades. During that time, the couple has traveled to schools and religious institutions helping others learn about those days of infamy. However, Myers said this visit with students will be one of his last. 

“This is just getting too hard,” Nora Myers told the Telegram.

Jennifer Rifkin, an English language arts teacher at Red Oak Middle School, said she feels it was important to bring Myers to the school and was grateful to have him make the effort to come.

“Every year, our eighth-grade students read ‘The Diary of Ann Frank’ and learn about the Holocaust,” Rifkin said. “I wanted these students to be able to put a face to the events. These details about real people and places make the learning experience much richer.”

After Myers’s account, students were allowed to ask questions about his experiences. However, one student had a more philosophical question in mind as she has studied the persecution of the Jews.

“What can we do to combat racism, hatred and anti-semitism?” the student asked.

Myers response was swift.

“I also think of the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If we all did that, things would work out well,” Myers said.

For more information about Myers’s life, watch his oral history at https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/irn78763.

 

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