BRINGING HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE TO THE COMMUNITY AT-LARGE
“I have very specific reasons for why I tell my story,” says Ralph Rehbock, who shares his recollections with groups of students several times a week as part of the Museum’s Speakers Bureau.
A Holocaust survivor and board member of the Museum, Ralph was only four years old when his family fled the small town of Gotha, Germany in 1938. He vividly remembers his experience and speaks out about the horrors of the Holocaust in the hope that his story will inspire younger generations to take a stand.
“I start my story after 1918, not after 1933. I tell all everyone who will listen about the various events that took place in Germany and that these are the things that allowed the Holocaust to happen,” Rehbock says. His story plays out over a number of years, as “bullying, lies, and deception” about the Jewish people allowed feelings of hatred and indifference to breed over time among non-Jewish Germans. Rehbock emphasizes the importance of understanding that the Holocaust did not happen overnight; it took years to build the social, political, and legal framework to enact such a horrific crime against humanity.
Rehbock’s father escaped capture by the Nazis on November 9, 1938 – now known as Kristallnacht – the night of the broken glass. Forced to flee the country, Ralph and his mother took trains from Germany to Holland to England. His father escaped by hiding in a plane bound for London.
Rehbock emphasizes the power of one when speaking to children —the power every individual has to step up and make a difference in the face of adversity. Rehbock’s family was able to escape Nazi Germany due to the quiet heroism of five individuals who each helped them in small ways.
“Each group of children I talk to has the power of one,” says Rehbock. “They can be upstanders and affect lives like my life was affected.”
As Holocaust survivors age, Rehbock is concerned that their stories will disappear. “When your children are the ages that you are now, there will be no more survivors,” Rehbock tells current students. “It is your responsibility, not the responsibility of textbooks or teachers, to tell these stories.” He says it is imperative that the stories of the Holocaust continue to be shared through whatever means possible so that future generations will be able to prevent similar tragedies.
“The Holocaust ended in 1945 but that did not end all genocides,” says Rehbock. “Given the racism, prejudice, and intolerance that have allowed other genocides to become a reality after the Holocaust, there is always work to be done. There are stories to tell so that these subversive lies are stopped in their tracks.”
“Survivors are not going to be around for much longer,” Rehbock notes. “When they are gone, who is going to be responsible for telling their stories?”