As part of its Genocide Awareness Week Sept. 11-16, Heidelberg University will welcome back to campus Holocaust survivor Jimmy Lichtman of Florida. The community is invited to a pair of presentations during which Lichtman and fellow Holocaust survivor Emery “Emic” Grosinger of Michigan will share their harrowing experiences and their inspiring stories of survival and hope.
The series of events is organized around genocide awareness. Genocide events such as Rwanda, the Holocaust and Bosnia seem long past for the current generation of young people. However, there are still many lessons to be learned about genocide, said Heidelberg history professor Dr. Courtney DeMayo, who is on the organizing committee.
“Our goal for this week is to raise awareness about both historical and contemporary genocide, to get students engaged in an academic inquiry of this topic and get them to think globally and act locally,” DeMayo said.
The week kicks off with “Stories of Genocide Survival: A Reader’s Theatre,” at 7:30 p.m. Sunday in Gundlach Theatre (inside Founders Hall). Members of Heidelberg’s theatre department will present a dramatic interpretation of several genocide survivors’ stories. The presentation will focus on the experiences of Holocaust survivors.
On Monday, Sept. 12, at 7 p.m., Lichtman and Grosinger will tell their stories in “Survivors and Liberators Reunited: Heidelberg Remembers the Holocaust.” They will be joined by U.S. Army veterans Don Behm, a 1951 Heidelberg alumnus, and George Sherman, who were in the unit that helped liberate the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria where the two were imprisoned. The community is invited to the presentation, which will be held in Seiberling Gymnasium.
On Tuesday, Sept. 13, at 7 p.m., Heidelberg encourages the community to hear a continuation of the discussion as political science professor Dr. Marc O’Reilly hosts “Political Perspectives with John Bing: An Interview with Holocaust Survivors and Camp Liberators.” This session, also open to the public, will be held in Gundlach Theatre (inside Founders Hall). It will be taped before a live studio audience, similar to a television interview show.
Romanian-born Lichtman was expelled from school in 1942 for being Jewish and was sent to a ghetto with his family in 1944. From there, he was transported to the Auschwitz and Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camps, where he and his father were forced to perform slave labor until his liberation in May 1945. He immigrated to the U.S. in 1947 and developed a successful company.
Grosinger, born in Transylvania, was deported in 1945 to Auschwitz-Birkenau to Grosrosen then Sachsenhausen and finally, Mauthausen-Gusen. At Mauthausen, he was housed with political prisoners and remained there until liberation in 1945. In 1947, he fled the communists and came to the U.S. via France in 1948. He joined the U.S. Army in 1953 as a path to citizenship.
Additional events are being planned throughout the week. On Tuesday morning, Heidelberg will host local and area middle school and high school students for a presentation by Lichtman and Grosinger. While on campus, the survivors also will participate in classes and other sessions. A series of student-focused events also is being planned for the week, including the critically acclaimed film, “The Last Survivor,” a character-based documentary about the stories of genocide survivors and their struggles to understand their experiences.
Sponsors for the week’s events are Berg Events Council, the Office of Student Activities, the International Cultural Center of Tiffin, the Office of Institutional Advancement and University Relations, Campus Ministry, the Faculty AIM Hei Student Mentoring Program, Phi Alpha Theta History Honorary, the Cultural and Spiritual Club and the History Department.