Steen Metz, a Holocaust survivor, talked to English l students yesterday about his experience in the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp.
“I always tell students to be my ambassador," Metz said. "Talk to at least four people so they know the Holocaust happened.”
According to Jordan Addison, English teacher, the English l classes will read Night by Elie Wiesel, a memoir of the author’s experience in Auschwitz during World War ll. English l teachers decided to have Metz speak to students to provide appropriate background for the book. “I think it is so important for students to meet and learn from survivors for several reasons. First, this humanizes the stories we read that can sometimes feel like they happened hundreds of years ago. Second, it is in immense honor to hear survivors speak,” Addison said.
Metz, eight years old, Summer 1943
Metz lived in Odense, Denmark. On April 9, 1940, Hitler attacked Denmark by air, land, and sea; Denmark was not prepared for any attack. About 8,000 of the 4,500,000 people in Denmark were Jewish. Metz said the conditions were “relatively normal” for the first three years compared to other infiltrated locations around Europe. By the Fall of 1943, groups of college students, angered that Germany took over Denmark, started attacking Nazis in their towns. In Odense, the Churchill Group burned railways and attacked Nazis with weapons that were shipped from Britain. Hitler ordered them to be sentenced to death, but the Danish government refused; Nazis began arrested Jewish people. During this time, roughly 95% of Jewish individuals were able to escape to Sweden.
School field, drop off for Jewish prisoners, October 1943
On October 2, 1943, Metz’s family was arrested. They had 45 minutes to get dressed and gather their belongings, and his father was encouraged to bring money. The family was then driven by bus to a school yard. When 60 buses arrived, everyone was transported into a train car where they would be locked in for 80 hours without food and water. Metz recalls a woman said she would prefer suicide rather than be taken to a concentration camp. Metz was one of four total children in the car.
“It’s difficult for an eight year old boy to understand why were we going there? Why isn’t my neighbor here? Why isn’t my cousin here?” Metz said.