Holocaust survivor speaks

Ellen Fetter, Gerda Weissmann Klein and Melisa Frydman sit in front of the school during the presentation. Frydman began by introducing Klein and highlighting her accomplishments during her life in America after the Holocaust. After Klein’s speech Ellen Fetter recited a poem, summing up the messages Klein brought to us.

Ellen Fetter, Gerda Weissmann Klein and Melisa Frydman sit in front of the school during the presentation. Frydman began by introducing Klein and highlighting her accomplishments during her life in America after the Holocaust. After Klein’s speech Ellen Fetter recited a poem, summing up the messages Klein brought to us.

Friday, April 12th and Thursday, April 11th Gerda Weissmann Klein came to speak to students and the Oakwood community. Klein, a Holocaust survivor, talked about the pride of being American and the significance of friendship, hope and what really matters in life.

“No matter how gruesome it [the Holocaust] sounds, the part that is not illuminated is the hope, love, and friendship,” Klein said.

Being well travelled, Klein had a surplus of wise words to share. Not only does Klein share what she was taken from her experiences through speeches, she has also written eight books and been a part of the making of a movie about her life. Although Klein has won a Grammy and an Oscar, she does not value these objects like many other winners would, rather she thinks of them as “cold” compared to her family and friends.

“The Emmy and Oscar are sitting in my living room. They are golden in the afternoon light but they don’t warm me. Then my grandchildren come and warm me,” Klein said.

Along with other words of wisdom, Klein stressed how lucky we are as Americans to have freedoms and privileges that many people around the world can only dream about. One freedom Klein highlighted was the 1st Amendment, providing an example of how shocked she was the first time she witnessed someone practicing this freedom by criticizing the president.

“I started hitting my husband and said ‘stop him’ he said, ‘I am a Democrat and support Truman, it was a show for this little lady who is new to the country and doesn’t know about the freedom of speech,”  Klein said.

Klein’s influential appearance affected and intrigued many students and teachers not only because of her experiences but also because of her life after the Holocaust and how she kept such a positive outlook on humanity.

“She took something so bad and made it something so positive,” Maggie Armstrong (12) said.

Mrs. Ostdiek, teacher of the Holocaust in Literature class organized getting an integral grant from The Oakwood Schools Foundation, Julie Halpern, Oakwood Arts Bridge and the PTO. Other contributors that made the assembly possible gave generous support.

Because of all the hard work Ostdiek put in for the assembly and her extensive studies about the Holocaust, Klein’s appearance meant a lot.

“After studying the Holocaust for more than fifteen years, nothing has had a more profound effect on me than reading and rereading Gerda’s story. Her’s is one of courage and hope and possibility. She is a magical person,” Ostdiek said.

The effect Klein coming in had on students, teachers and members of the community is profound. Many students felt it was what the school needed to be reminded of what we have how amazing it is to be American.

“I think it had a really good impact,” Sophia Cothrel (12) said,  “I find it hard to imagine being taken away from your parents and home and all that and the fact that had had that [the ability to stay positive and send her messages] is incredible.”

By Sarah Penix
penix.sarah@oakwoodschools.org
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