SANFORD - Dr. Peter Stein, who lost family in the Holocaust, was guest speaker for Central Carolina Community College's Third Annual Holocaust Remembrance Event held at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center.
Dr. Stein's presentation was made available through The Center for Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights Education of North Carolina, Inc.
"I'm an educator, and I think education is so important for people to learn from each other," said Dr. Stein, adding that he is hopeful that nothing like the Holocaust will ever happen again.
Dr. Stein was born in Czechoslovakia in 1936 - his father (Victor) was Jewish; his mother (Helen) was Catholic. In 1939, the Germans occupied the country. Much of Dr. Stein's Jewish family was among those taken to Terezin, a ghetto and concentration camp. Many were taken to Auschwitz, an extermination camp, where they died. Dr. Stein's grandmother was a Type I diabetic and had her medications taken away by the Germans. She died in 19 days.
Dr. Stein's father, since he was married to a Catholic, was taken to Terezin later than his other family members. He was among the survivors of the Holocaust - and was reunited with his wife and son in May 1945. Dr. Stein, who came with his mother to America in 1948, notes that seeing the Statue of Liberty and New York City landscape and learning of President Truman's victory announced the next morning are seared in his memory. His father, who was not able to obtain a visa at the same time, came about three years later.
"The death of relatives during the Holocaust has meant that I never had a chance to live with and interact with a large number of people, many of whom, because I was too young, I never really knew. These relatives were never given a chance to fully develop their talents, skills, and to contribute to the lives of others," said Dr. Stein.
"For many years, my father, who survived, would not talk about the fact that so many relatives were murdered in the camps - the pain was too much for him. Later on, perhaps when he was in his 50s or 60s, he opened my eyes to what had happened. I became interested in learning more, in studying the Holocaust, teaching about it, and to become more involved in fighting for human rights," said Dr. Stein. "For me, teaching and education are vital to improve people's lives, and that is what I've been doing for the past 25 years or so. So these terrible events must be remembered and understood so we try not to repeat them. We need to look for our common humanity so we all survive."
In addition, the traveling exhibit "Dr. Seuss Wants You!: The Political Cartoons of Dr. Seuss, 1941-1942" was available in the lobby thanks to the North Carolina Council on the Holocaust.
"My awe at and appreciation of Dr. Peter Stein cannot be overstated," said Bianka Stumpf, CCCC History Instructor, who organized the visit. "He grew our competence, but also our compassion. The students, faculty, and community members in attendance learned about life in Prague under Nazi occupation and the heavy costs exacted in the Holocaust and in Dr. Stein's immediate family. But what also happened, and is transformative, is Dr. Stein's challenge to continue educating ourselves and to act responsibly in caring for our neighbors and for carrying out not just tolerance but acceptance and advocacy for others."
Ms. Stumpf said that the college is fortunate to have such engaging speakers from the The Center for Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights Education of North Carolina. "The Holocaust is no single experience, and the Center helps us communicate that," she said. "Elie Wiesel, famed Holocaust survivor, is quoted, 'When you listen to a witness, you become a witness.' We all left witnesses to tragedy, but also triumph."
For more information on The Center for Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights Education of North Carolina, visit the website www.holocaustspeakersbureau.org.
For more information on Central Carolina Community College, visit www.cccc.edu.
Dr. Peter Stein was guest speaker for Central Carolina Community College's Third Annual Holocaust Remembrance Event held at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center.
The traveling exhibit "Dr. Seuss Wants You!: The Political Cartoons of Dr. Seuss, 1941-1942" was on display during Central Carolina Community College's Third Annual Holocaust Remembrance Event held at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center.