On February 10, 2020 the 12 Remember Project teens, their friends, and their families were given the rare opportunity to sit down with our local Holocaust survivors and their descendants. In this one-on-one setting, the participants heard the survivors’ stories of the Holocaust and its impact on their lives and families throughout the generations since. Read one student's reflections on this meaningful experience below.
On Monday of last week I was given one of the most incredible opportunities of my life. Through the Remember Project, I was able to spend a night speaking to Holocaust survivors, as well as the children and grandchildren of survivors. The night left in me a powerful mixture of emotions that I have trouble explaining. It was almost difficult to come to terms with the stories that were told. It can be difficult to come to terms with the fact that such darkness exists in the world.
We learn of tragedy through school, the news, books and articles, but at times it can feel removed, almost as though it happened in another world. Sitting across from someone, explaining how they fought to live through such monumental horror forced me to come face to face with the fact that the Holocaust did not take place in a world far removed from my own; it happened in the world where I still live, to people with whom I can sit down and eat dinner.
Surprisingly though, as I listened to family stories of hardship and survival, I never got the feeling of overwhelming pessimism or disillusionment that one might expect. In fact, at the end of the night, each family member and survivor stood up and summarized the one thing he or she wanted us to take away from that night. Each person expressed the same hope: that we would learn from those who have suffered in the past and help prevent the suffering of others in the future. They explained that, even in the darkest times, nothing is more important than choosing to love and protect those around you.
At the end of the night, I didn’t feel discouraged. I felt hopeful. I felt hopeful that we can continue to learn from the past in order to work towards a future in which no one must suffer in that same way. I feel truly lucky to have had the opportunity to speak to Holocaust survivors in my lifetime. There is no greater embodiment of strength and resilience, and there is no greater reminder of the value of kindness. I will forever treasure that night in my memory, and I am truly grateful for the experience.
Millie Wilbourn was selected to participate in the Remember Project. High school students have a rare and unique opportunity to study the Holocaust and other genocides by becoming an ambassador in their school and community through the 2019-2020 Remember For high school students looking for a meaningful and profound community service experience, this cohort is an excellent option with monthly meetings to ensure this next generation is committed to ‘Always remembering’. For more information on the Remember Program visit https://www.jewishcharleston.org/remember