Penn State New Kensington prepares for 21st annual Holocaust program
As Lois Rubin, associate professor of history at Penn State New Kensington, prepares for the school's 21st annual Holocaust program, she describes herself as lucky.
The Jewish professor, who lives in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood, credits her birth in the United States, rather than her grandparents' home in Europe, for saving her life.
“I was born in the early 1940s, and I always see myself through the lens of what if I had been born in Europe,” she said. “I probably would not have survived. There were 1.5 million Jewish children who were killed there.”
That gratefulness has inspired her to bring Holocaust survivors to Penn State New Kensington, where she has been teaching composition for 29 years. There has been a scant number of Jewish students at PSNK, Rubin said.
“I was nervous about it because we didn't have Jewish students, but it was so well received, and that's why I continued,” she said. “I never thought of stopping.”
She said that another motivation is the persistence of the Holocaust deniers, “who would want to undermine what has happened.”
Rubin knows how rich the survivor stories are firsthand: She ran two writing workshops for local Holocaust survivors to pen their memoirs in the Oxford University Press 2002 book “Flares of Memory.”
“They had powerful stories to tell,” she said. “They just needed help in constructing them. It was one of the most satisfying experiences I have had.”
Many of the Holocaust survivors have died. The youngest who can remember were born in the 1930s, putting them in the 80-plus age bracket.
Wednesday's presentation by Moshe Baran, marks the first time that a resistance fighter has been a part of PSNK's Holocaust program.
Baran, 92, of Pittsburgh escaped a Nazi labor camp in what is now the Republic of Belarus, a former Soviet republic. He hid in the forest and joined the resistance movement, helping with sabotage and ambush operations.
As part of the resistance, Baran arranged for the rescue of his brother, sister and mother, all of whom survived. He married another survivor, Malka Klin, and the couple immigrated to New York City in 1954.
Baran is past president of the Holocaust Survivors of Pittsburgh.
He's been telling his story for a number of years in books as well as The Jewish Chronicle newspaper.
“The Holocaust is a stain of blood and shame on humanity,” he said, “If we don't tell the stories, who will?”
As Baran was part of the resistance movement, he takes issue with people who balk at what some consider the Jewish people's lack of resistance and the Nazis' process of breaking people down.
“Who did they expect to resist?” asked Baran as he remembered his home village of Holodok, Poland, as a place where people didn't have weapons, didn't see weapons.
The Nazis “put you in a ghetto, they isolated you from your surroundings,” he said. “You are hungry and depressed. You expect your demise at any minute. It was a process.
“They send you to Auschwitz and to a ghetto and pick you up like garbage with trucks and take you outside of town and force you in a barn and machine gun you down and throw you in a fire.
“This is a sick world, my friend, but I'm an optimist,” he said.
Baran stresses that one of the most important qualities in a community is “love of neighbors.”
“It doesn't cost you anything.”
Mary Ann Thomas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4691 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Driver leaps from sliding truck just before it topples down hillside in Fawn
- Gunman sought in gas station robberies in Jefferson, Buffalo townships
- Parents alerted to luring attempt of fourth-grade girl in Springdale
- EPA urges further review of nuclear waste dump in Parks Township
- Winfield Township to try road treatment mix
- Burrell students embark on educational adventure
- Residents opposed to drilling, Consol subsidiary make cases in Allegheny Township
- Winfield man is one of a few to attend all 49 Super Bowl games
- Popular Super Bowl, March Madness traditions prohibited under state law
- Woman killed in Washington Township crash
- Army Corps of Engineers asks for more input on Parks Township nuclear dump plans