Holocaust survivor Sam Rind spoke in the College Union Ballroom about his experience as a young boy during World War II on Wednesday Oct. 8 as part of the All-College Hour Speaker Series. Born in Krasnovrov, Poland––a small town of only 3,000 people––in 1937, Rind was born into a world on the verge of war. World War II started in Sept. 1939.
“The destruction of properties, homes and lives––mainly those of Jews––started when [Adolf] Hitler came to power in 1933,” Rind said. “German Jews did not believe that Hitler was going to hurt them because their fathers fought for Germany in World War I. Even if someone changed religion, in his eyes, they were a Jew if their ancestry was Jewish. Anyone born as a Jew, dies as a Jew.”
When Rind was a young boy, his large family split up into groups in order to ensure a greater chance of survival. Rind and his mother, father, aunt, uncle, their three daughters and baby brother spent a long time being trucked from one Ukrainian camp to the other. In these camps, they were forced to perform manual labor.
Adults and children alike would “dig graves for those who were dead, even those who were nearing death,” Rind said.
One of Rind’s cousins was killed because she was not digging a grave fast enough. Rind noted that although most camps were guided by the German Nazis, the camp he was at was run by Romanians.
Rind felt the Romanians were worse than Germans. “They wanted to show the Germans that they could do the same thing they were doing, or better,” he said.
Rind explained how his father was forced to trade a 14-carat gold ring for one potato––food was scarce. The death of Rind’s father instilled a sense of responsibility in him along with a loss of innocence.
“You had a 5-year-old lose not only his father, but his childhood because he realized he now had to take care of his mother and his baby brother,” Rind said.
The theme of family was prevalent throughout his speech as he continued to describe the inhumane loss of his brother.
“I’ve seen so much death in front of my eyes at such a young age … I learned so much from taking care of my mother,” Rind said. “I learned how to be a human being from her. She taught me respect … A society without respect is doomed.”
Rind survived the Holocaust by fleeing to the Ukraine. He returned to Poland to join a commune, eventually deciding to move to the United States. He finally made it to the U.S. in 1960.
Throughout Rind’s speech, he stressed the notion that we have a chance to end unfair killing once and for all. He compared the Holocaust to the mass genocide that is currently occurring in Africa.
“There is genocide that goes on in Africa every day because the government does not do enough to stop it,” Rind said.
He encouraged the audience to do something about genocide as soon as possible.
“Learn to say ‘never again,” he said. “It’s very important. You want to grow up and say, ‘there is peace on this earth because of you.’”
He hopes that by speaking to people around the world, he can encourage them to bring about lasting, positive world change.
“I’m hoping that people like me are helping people like you,” Rind said.