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Holocaust survivor shares experiences

mr. reich leaves lasting impression on students

May 28, 2014

On his second annual visit to Monticello High School, Holocaust survivor Warner Reich had the same unassuming smile, kind eyes and quiet voice. His calm demeanor is in stark contrast to the horrors he had seen and experienced more than sixty years ago. The auditorium of Monticello High School was quiet as he spoke of those dark days.

Mr. Reich travels far and wide to schools sharing his story in hopes that he can change the future paths of today's young people. He encourages the young people to look at people in a new way, embrace life with new perspective, and to respect everyone, even when they seem different.

The students who attended Mr. Reich's assembly exited the auditorium with a new appreciation for all that they have and for the life they live in America. He challenged them to love people each and every day, for they do not know what tomorrow may bring.

RJK Middle School teaching assistant Robin Cruz and teacher Robert Keesler organize the event for students each year.

"Unless we learn from the past, ignorance and prejudice linger. Bullying is not always apparent; it happens on a bus, in a hall, in a bathroom. I am here to present Werner Reich, to teach tolerance and diversity, so children can see firsthand what the depths of prejudice can do. We learn what we live, hatred or love is taught in our homes. It is up to us to teach diversity and tolerance in our school. Children should not feel unsafe because of their race or religion."
- a portion of Ms. Cruz's opening remarks at Mr. Reich's presentation

IN THEIR WORDS

STUDENTS' REFLECTIONS AFTER MR. REICH'S PRESENTATION

"Today was one of the best days of my life. We got to speak to a Holocaust survivor and ask him questions. One boy in my class asked him if what happened to him made him a better man and his answer was astonishing. The man replied by basically saying that life is short and you've got to make the best of what you have, and not to take life for granted. He is so grateful for his life and he was the nicest, kindest person I had ever met in my life. By the end of his answer, many of us (including me) were in tears. This one single man who I had known for one day, had changed my entire life. He made me not care about what I wanted, but grateful that I have whatever I do. He made me not want a single more thing. I remember him saying that tomorrow someone you love could be gone, and so you have to love them TODAY. I will forever be grateful for this experience and focus and what I've got, not what I'm missing. He taught me that life isn't all about what you have gone or are going through, but how you deal with it. This man had gone through the most evil event in history and was still the best human being I have ever met. So I want to thank Mr. Reich (I probably messed up the spelling) for being the biggest inspiration in my whole life. And I will always remember how hard this one answer had hit me in that moment, and try to recall that feeling when I am being selfish and unappreciative. "
-Kellie Swensen

Everyone is equal - we shouldn't judge by what they look like or what they believe.
- Autumn Herald

He taught me to appreciate the little things, like food.
-Tatiana Schlette

"I feel so bad, but nobody takes action to prevent this stuff from happening."
- Joseph Steigler

"If history is forgotten, it will happen in the future and you will have no clue how to handle it. Why? Because you have no prior knowledge of the Holocaust."
- Zanaya Cooper

"He made us think about other people and how many people were impacted by the Holocaust. I am emotional - I feel for the other countries because they have to go through that. People were forced out of their homes and killed because of their religion and who they are. I feel fortunate."
- Somaya Bracy

"Mr. Reich taught us not to take things for granted because you never know how long it will last. We don't know what the future brings. He was a strong person - his story as a whole was amazing."
- Amanda Karmolinski

"He said 'it was the last time I saw my mom.' That was so sad. He taught us to appreciate what we have. He had so little and he made so much."
- Brielle Farrish

"I’ve always believed the Holocaust happened, but I’ve never met anyone personally who went through it until recently when I met this gentleman. I learned quite a lot from him and I was totally amazed at his story, especially about the part where he lost almost all of his toes just to save his life. He is quite a character with his jovial mannerisms and doesn’t seem bitter about the cruelty that was done to him by fellow humans."
-
David Linton (Technical Assistant)

Photo left: Among the people who were impacted by Mr. Reich's powerful presentation were: Tatiana Schlette, Brielle Farrish, Somaya Bracy, Amanda Karmolinski, Sara Sorensen, Allie LaRuffa, Morgan Mitchell, Sara Mapes and Kellie Swensen. Also shown is program coordinator Robin Cruz (back row, far left).

Photo right: RJK Middle School teaching assistant Robin Cruz (far left) coordinates Mr. Reich's annual visit with the students. Joining her are technical assistant David Linton, who was greatly impacted by the presentation, and RJK Middle School social studies teacher Robert Keesler who works closely with Ms. Cruz on the event.


"The young people learn about the brutality of the Holocaust firsthand," said Ms. Cruz. "My goal is that Mr. Reich's experiences and his positive attitude leave a lasting impression on the students so they see people in a completely different light."