On Wednesday, Apr. 15 at 6:30 p.m. in O’Hara Dining Room, Veronica Kestenberg shared with fellow students her Holocaust survival story.
“I survived because good people helped us, so I try and do good to others,” she stated, “Good will to others makes you feel good.”
Much of Kestenberg’s approach in telling her story was to remind students to learn and read about the Holocaust because soon there will be no survivors alive, “we survivors are getting old.”
She continued to tell students to meet witnesses and write about the survivors’ stories. She believes that, somewhere down the road, people will deny that the Holocaust ever happened and to prevent this, we must continue reflecting on our history’s past.
“Soon it will be your generation to tell other generations,” in expressing her good intentions she reminded the crowd of destruction and war. In doing so, Kestenberg told students of destructive behavior by the Nazis. Again she expressed good will, in doing good acts for others such as visiting nursing homes, helping nonprofit organizations and doing anything that can help individuals feel connected to the blissful nature of humanity.
Kestenberg grew up in Budapest, Hungary, which was much like the city of New York City, “there was no grass, but my nanny often took me to the park to play and meet other children.”
By the time Kestenberg was in second grade, the war had been going on for three years and by the time she was eight years old she had changed her personal identification and birth name three times.
Through the many transitions from hotel to hostel and to different trains, Kestenberg remembers asking herself on Jan. 25, 1945 “who will survive and who will not?”
Amongst the transitions and challenges of being separated from her father and brother for three years, she lived with her mother and another family with no heat, no water and no food.
“Sometimes we ate dry corn which was put away for the horses but we were hungry, we were scared,” she stated.
Kestenberg also described her stealth on the streets with corpses lining the road and in ditches. She rarely went outside, but when she did she often heard “Stalin Stars,” referring to Russian bombs. The atmosphere was dangerous and scary.
The day she and her mother were saved by a knock at the door from a Russian soldier she said, “we didn’t know whether to be happy or cry.” Soon thereafter she reunited with her father and brother.
In closure, she reminded the audience to act in good will and with good intentions.
Kestenberg’s attitude was that of a role model and certainly had the respect from all who attended Wednesday evening.
“I was a lucky person,” she stated.