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The Raider Voice

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Holocaust Survivor Jack Waksal Shares His Story

Ninty-nine-year-old+Holocaust+survivor+Jack+Waksal+and+Nicole+Freeman%2C+the+Director+of+Education+at+the+Holocaust+Memorial+Miami+Beach%2C+speak+during+Wednesdays+assembly.+Waksal+spoke+about+his+time+in+three+different+concentration+camps%2C+specifically+of+his+time+in+Pionki+%E2%80%93+a+forced+labor+camp+%E2%80%93+where+he+shoveled+coal+for+hours+on+end.+Waksal+emphasized+the+importance+of+remembering+the+events+of+the+Holocaust+and+of+standing+against+antisemitism.
Sara Gelrud
Ninty-nine-year-old Holocaust survivor Jack Waksal and Nicole Freeman, the Director of Education at the Holocaust Memorial Miami Beach, speak during Wednesday’s assembly. Waksal spoke about his time in three different concentration camps, specifically of his time in Pionki – a forced labor camp – where he shoveled coal for hours on end. Waksal emphasized the importance of remembering the events of the Holocaust and of standing against antisemitism.

Ninty-nine-year-old Holocaust survivor Jack Waksal shared his story in conversation with Nicole Freeman, the Director of Education at the Holocaust Memorial Miami Beach, in the Blue Dungeon on Wednesday during an assembly commemorating International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

During the assembly, Waksal told of the first events of the Holocaust he experienced and of the circumstances he endured until the end of the war and after the war.

“After the Holocaust, [I] didn’t care to live… It was not an easy life in the beginning when I survived,” Waksal said.

Waksal was 15 years old when the Nazis invaded his hometown in Poland in 1940. During the Holocaust, he survived multiple concentration camps including Kruszyny, Wsola, and Pionki. According to him, one of his main motivations for surviving was knowing that he had to share his experiences during the Holocaust with future generations so that the world could never forget what occurred.

“It’s so rare that you get to actually meet someone who’s been through the Holocaust and all the horrible things that happened during the war. Six million [Jewish deaths] is too big of a number to even fathom… no one thought it could ever happen and it did,” sophomore Emilia Rubalcaba said, adding that Waksal’s story was especially personal to her as someone of Polish Jewish descent whose family shares a similar story to Waksal’s.

Students gather around Waksal after a Q&A in the Student Union. After the assembly, students were offered the opportunity to spend fourth period with Waksal for a Q&A session. Students asked Waksal about where his hope and motivation came from during the war, how he moved on after the Holocaust, and about the importance of Israel. (Sara Gelrud)

With the marked 337 percent rise in antisemitism since Oct. 7, Waksal emphasized the importance of sharing his story and remembering the events that occurred.

“Antisemitism does not belong. [W]e have to stand against it,” he said.

Shaylee Rosen, Jewish Student Union (JSU) Private School Director for Palm Beach and North Broward, attended the assembly and reemphasized the urgency to promote Holocaust education programs, especially after the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel by Hamas.

“There’s a lot of misconceptions that anti-Semitism started and ended in the Holocaust, and that’s absolutely not the case,” Rosen explained, adding that JSU has noticed an increase in antisemitic incidents at the various schools they partner with. “It’s important for students to understand their history and how to combat antisemitism,” she said.

Students like freshman Cole Labbie thought Waksal’s story to be moving. According to Labbie, he could grasp a greater understanding of the emotions of the Jewish community during the Holocaust. Labbie’s biggest takeaway, though, was that of the importance of hope.

“He talked about how even in the darkest times, hope is what got him through it. And I think that’s something that we need to remember going through [the aftermath of October seventh]” Labbie explained.

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About the Contributor
Sara Gelrud, Editor-in-Chief
Sara Gelrud is a senior and the editor-in-chief for "The Raider Voice." This is her second year as a full staff member but has been a contributing writer since her sophomore year. Along with the newspaper, Sara is the editor-in-chief of "Reflections", the literary and arts magazine. Sara leads the Book Club and the Jewish Student Union and is excited to grow as a leader for "The Raider Voice."

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