Holocaust Survivor Speaking Reflection

Lila Maiolo, Staff Reporter

On February 19, all United States History students had the opportunity to hear Holocaust survivor Steen Metz speak about his experiences as a child in concentration camps during the Holocaust. What I learned from this presentation was unlike anything I have experienced before. While I know most students have grown up learning about the Holocaust in school, I believe that there is nothing more influential than hearing what the conditions were truly like from someone who experienced this difficult era of anti-semitism themselves. 

Metz conveyed a moving narrative in which he summarized his journey through concentration camps and also emphasized the importance of educating future generations about this colossal event that changed the nature of our world forever.

Metz grew up in Denmark and was only eight years old when he and his family were taken to the Theresienstadt concentration camp in Czechoslovakia. Although it was a work camp as opposed to an extermination camp, his father still passed away six months after his arrival due to starvation. 

Metz and his mother were in the camp for 18 months. After his release, Metz returned to Denmark to be reunited with the rest of his family and finish his years in school. He has since moved to the United States and has, in recent years, spoken to many students about his experiences. 

Metz hopes to ensure that our society never forgets about the horrific events that transpired during his youth. I can confidently say that those who truly listened to Metz’s speech will always remember his impactful words.

This experience reminded me of the fragility of our society and of the importance of recognizing the darkest aspects of our own history in order to prevent such horrors from repeating in the future. 

Unfortunately, I did notice that there were a handful of students who appeared preoccupied during Metz’s speech. Truthfully, I feel sorry that they missed out on such an enriching experience. That being said, the majority of the students who filled the PAC that day were attentive, respectful and appeared to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hear a Holocaust survivor speak.

Due to the unfortunate nature of time itself, the opportunity to hear Holocaust survivors recount their experiences firsthand is dwindling. Many of the remaining survivors are reaching old age and many have passed away in recent years. Eventually we will not have the opportunity to have our questions answered directly by those who went through experiences which are incomparable to anything else this world has ever seen. Although they are still valuable, secondhand details fail to carry the same weight as a personal story.

As an AP United States History student, I have not yet learned about the Holocaust in class, but that is not to the detriment of my appreciation of Metz’s words. His presentation served as a touching introduction to the material we will be covering in the coming months. 

Metz’s discussion of his experiences barely scratched the surface of the tales there are to tell when it comes to the horrors of the Holocaust. Our generation is so fortunate to be able to hear the stories of those who were so severely oppressed decades ago; in fact, we will likely be the last generation with the privilege of doing so.