Sharing his story as a concentration camp survivor, Dr. Max Eisen inspired Trent students, faculty and alumni during a virtual dialogue presented by Lady Eaton College on Holocaust Remembrance Day.
“Every person I know that has ever heard [Dr. Eisen] speak has said that hearing him has changed so much their understanding of the Holocaust,” said Dr. Carolyn Kay, History professor, when introducing Dr. Eisen. “I’ve had lots of students say that they read tons of books, and they took a course, but nothing compared to meeting Max and hearing him speak.”
Dr. Eisen’s talk began with a review of the situation in Europe leading to World War II. He then shared what his childhood was like in what is now Hungary. In 1944, when he was 15 years old, he was taken to a concentration camp to work as a slave for the Nazis. After losing his family and working at the concentration camp infirmary, he was liberated.
Speaking of experiences, both past and present, Dr. Eisen shared, “Anti-Semitism is not a Jewish problem. It is everybody’s problem. We need to stand up and do something about it. And, if we don’t, then we, unfortunately, may be repeating the same mistakes, and we haven’t learned anything from the past.”
He made a call to the audience to be responsible, to take action as an UPstander, not a BYstander.
“We need to stand on guard for our freedom,” Dr. Eisen said, suggesting young people can intervene for those in need by speak up or writing letters. “Stand up, but not with force.”
Step up and speak out
Dr. Eisen’s words had a tremendous impact on the audience including Dr. Christine Freeman-Roth, principal of Lady Eaton College.
“At Lady Eaton College, we seek knowledge and understanding to make a difference, to build a more humane, more compassionate world,” shared Professor Freeman-Roth. “Powerful personal experiences like those shared by Dr. Eisen remind us that we each have a responsibility to step up because such atrocities can only take place when otherwise good people stand by and allow them to happen.”
Alicia Yon, a fourth-year Social Work student appreciated the opportunity to hear Dr. Eisen speak this year. "I’ve had the opportunity to listen to Max Eisen in-person during in my time at Trent,” shared Ms. Yon. “His talk was just as impactful and memorable virtually. If you are interested in learning about the history and resilience of survivors in the significant period of the Holocaust, I highly recommend listening to Max speak."