More than 600 students gathered in the auditorium of Teaneck High School to hear the message of a survivor of the Holocaust on Tuesday morning, May 7. In the words of Goldie Minkowitz, longtime math instructor and coordinator of Jewish student activities at the high school, “The program marking Yom HaShoah has been in place at the high school for many years. As the years go by, with the population of Holocaust survivors rapidly depleting, our mission becomes even greater. Through their participation in the program, our students become the last of the first-hand witnesses of the Holocaust by hearing directly from a survivor. Thus we impart upon them the responsibility to bear witness to the atrocities of the Holocaust. We impart to them as well the need to stand up for what is right and help those who are being bullied for their race, religion and beliefs.”
Speaker Ruth Follman, 85, from Flatbush, Brooklyn, shared her family’s saga of survival with the rapt audience. She spoke of the naivete of Hungarian Jewry as late as 1944 about the atrocities being perpetrated on the Jews throughout Europe. She told of her father’s creative thinking in advance of the Nazi invasion of their small village, storing up fabrics to use as barter for food and shelter. She shared her gratitude to their courageous Hungarian neighbors, the Szabos, and especially their 16-year-old son, who hid their family in their attic and watched out for them during the harrowing months of their being hunted. Only nine members of her family survived from among 105.
After liberation and their arrival in the U.S., the family sent money and gifts to their Hungarian saviors, and in 2014 had them honored among the Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. Her message was one of appreciation to her saviors and the deep faith of her father who was determined that they survive to tell the horrific story. As a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother of many, she has taken upon herself this mission of speaking to today’s young people about preventing future cataclysmic events of man’s inhumanity to man.
By Pearl Markovitz