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  • Hillels of Georgia

Granddaughter of Holocaust Survivor Speaks to Hillel at UGA

Red & Black (March 28, 2022)

On Sunday, Hillel at the University of Georgia hosted speaker Emily Yehezkel to tell the story of her grandfather, Martin Brown, a Holocaust survivor.

Through working with the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust and 3GNY, a Holocaust educational nonprofit, Yehezkel has been able to conduct thorough research on her grandfather as a Holocaust survivor and member of the Jewish community during World War II to effectively tell his story.

At age 16, Brown — born Maximilian Braun, was taken to the Mukachevo or Munkács ghetto in Hungary around the year 1939. In 1944, he was taken via cattle car to the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland, according to Yehezkel.

It was at Auschwitz that Brown received a “serial code.” After a number was tattooed onto his left arm, he was no longer treated as a human being. “He was a number, he was an object,” Yehezkel said.

When Germany began losing the war, Yehezkel said prisoners at concentration camps outside of Germany were forced to walk and relocate to camps within Germany’s borders. These were known as “death marches.” Brown walked for about four days to the Dachau camp.

On April 26, 1945, Brown was liberated by U.S. troops. Yehezkel noted while he would have been excited, Brown also would have been scared because he didn’t know where he would go, what he would do, if any of his family had survived or if his home was still standing.

Yehezkel said her grandfather never spoke about his experience. He tattooed over his serial code and became a vegetarian because the smell of meat reminded him of the camps.

It wasn’t until Elie Wiesel won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986 that Brown was inspired to share small pieces of his experience with his family and others. He and Wiesel were both at Auschwitz and their serial codes were three or four numbers apart.

“I am a survivor, but my voice has been stilled for forty years,” wrote Brown in a letter to Wiesel in 1986.

Yehezkel was inspired to begin her work in Holocaust education when she and her mother attended an event where Wiesel spoke. He remembered her grandfather’s letter. It is important to tell stories like her grandfather’s because “We have to make ‘never again’ a reality,” Yehezkel said.

After the event, attendee and UGA sophomore Leah Bernstein said what Yehezkel mentioned Brown stated on his deathbed resonated with her. “You can never forget, but you have to forgive,” Brown said.

Sarah Schafer, a junior landscape architecture major, said it is important for people to hear stories about the Holocaust from people like Yehezkel because stories told by survivors are becoming less common.

Both Bernstein and Schafer are members of Hillel at UGA and have heard Holocaust survival stories many times, but they think people outside of the Jewish community should be given the opportunity to learn more about the Holocaust as well.

Sunday’s event was organized by Hillel at UGA in collaboration with the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust to commemorate the blooming of the daffodils planted by The Daffodil Project back in December 2021, Schafer said.

Schafer, who lead in organizing The Daffodil Project at UGA, said that the goal is to plant 1.5 million daffodil bulbs worldwide in memory of the children who died in the Holocaust and in support of children suffering from humanitarian crises today. UGA’s daffodil garden is located in front of Park Hall.

The event was also in partnership with Six Million Steps, a project run by the Israeli American Council. Six Million Steps works to preserve the memory of the Holocaust and bring attention to resurgences of antisemitism across the globe. From now until April 28, which is Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, Six Million Steps at UGA encourages students and community members to record and submit their steps every week.

To see the original article, CLICK HERE.

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