Bronxville News

holocaust survivor speaks
Bronxville, NY

As Holocaust survivor Hannah Holsten shared her personal experiences during World War II, she urged Bronxville Middle School seventh and eighth graders to educate themselves and speak up with knowledge.

Born in Nuremberg, Germany, Holsten lived a normal life with her mother, father, sister and brother until 1938 when the Nazis destroyed everything they owned during Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass. She endured a long two-year journey, fleeing from the Nazis, traveling all over Europe, and at one point being hidden by smugglers. Holsten, who now has three children, 10 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, shares her story with hopes that no one ever forgets the terrors of the Holocaust. 

“It was important that students were exposed to stories about the path that hate can take when bystanders stay silent,” said English teacher Meg Weiss, who spearheaded the event. “Hannah’s story about her childhood escaping from Nazi oppression by hiding in attics, being smuggled across national borders under the pile of hay on a wagon, and hiding jewelry and valuables in the dolls she carried was personal and poignant.”

Weiss said the students asked meaningful questions and were deeply moved by her story. 

“Certainly, they wonder about a world in which such horrid conditions exist for children and families,” Weiss said. “It was evident that students learned a great deal about antisemitism and about hate more generally.”

As part of their studies, the eighth graders read Elie Wiesel’s memoir, “Night,” which documents the author’s experience and survival at the Auschwitz concentration camp. They’ve also been discussing the bystander effect and learning about the importance of speaking up and acting against all forms of prejudice. 

“Mrs. Holsten’s story was very powerful because it showed us how strong she was able to be at such a young age during the Holocaust,” eighth grader Genevieve Dimitri said. “She taught us several lessons. She taught us to always educate ourselves before forming an opinion, to always treat each other with respect, to never have hatred towards another person and to always speak up if you see something that isn’t right. If everyone is a bystander, then nothing is going to change.”

Eighth grader Jane Sekula said she appreciated Holsten sharing her powerful story, which helped her realize the struggles Jewish people faced. 

“What I believe Ms. Holsten said that will continue to resonate with me is how important it is to speak up even when a majority is against you because that is the reason Hitler rose into power in Germany and influenced other countries,” Sekula said. “I felt that Ms. Holsten’s talk really benefited our grade’s knowledge and perspective of the Holocaust.”

holocaust survivor speaks


holocaust survivor speaks


holocaust survivor speaks