Holocaust survivors to give first-hand account of atrocities

Penn State New Kensington will hold its annual "Holocaust, in Remembrance" program from noon to 1 p.m. Wednesday, April 9, in the campus Forum Theatre. Lois Rubin, associate professor of English, annually arranges for guest speakers in an effort to educate students about the atrocities of the Holocaust. The program is free to the public.

Two survivors of Nazi concentration camps, Shulamit Bastacky of Pittsburgh and Sam Weinreb of White Oak, a suburb of Pittsburgh, will talk about their extraordinary experiences and give first-hand accounts of the atrocities of the Holocaust. They previously spoke at the campus in 2011.

"They will tell their story, giving first-hand accounts of living in Nazi Germany, being separated from their families, hiding from the German soldiers, and being incarcerated in a concentration camp," said Rubin, who teaches composition and multicultural and women's literature courses. "After being liberated, they eventually made their way to the United States."

Born in 1941 in Vilna, Poland (now Vilnius, Lithuania), Bastacky was only a baby when her family experienced the horrors of the Holocaust. After the Germans invaded the city, her family went into hiding. Separated from her mother and father, Bastacky was hidden in the basement of the residence of a Roman Catholic nun. Alone and in a dark cellar, the little girl barely survived on the food that the nun was able to provide periodically. Three years later, when the Russian army liberated the town, Bastacky finally emerged. Her parents also survived and the family was eventually reunited, and they immigrated to the United States in 1963 and settled in Pittsburgh. Bastacky later earned a master's degree in social work from the University of Pittsburgh.

Weinreb was born in 1928, and he was 13-years old when his family experienced the horrors of the Holocaust while living in the former Czechoslovakia. After his family was taken from their home, Weinreb escaped from Bratislava, Czechoslovakia, and went to Hungary. He was later imprisoned in Hungary and then sent to Auschwitz, the German concentration camp where he lived for 11 months. He endured torture and witnessed atrocities committed in the name of war. None of his family -- two brothers, one sister -- survived the Holocaust. He will share his experiences as a prisoner and as a survivor of the Holocaust. A jeweler and watchmaker, Weinreb and his wife, Goldie, have two children and one granddaughter.

Since 1992, Rubin has brought 21 Holocaust survivors to the New Kensington campus to speak in April, the month of Holocaust Remembrance Day. According to the Pittsburgh native, the recollections by speakers such as Bastacky and Weinreb remind the world of the lesson of respecting the humanity of those who are different.

"I continue to do the program because I think we still need to be mindful of the terrible consequences of hatred and prejudice," said Rubin, who earned a doctorate degree from Carnegie-Mellon University. "Time is passing, and members of the World War II generation are aging. In a few years, the survivors of the Holocaust will not be around to tell us their stories in person."

Co-sponsored by the Office of Student Affairs, the event usually has a large turnout. Seating is limited and group reservations are recommended.

For information or to make a group reservation, call 724-334-6062.


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Last Updated April 02, 2014