Oscar Schindler Exhibit Opening at the YJCC

Oscar Schindler Exhibit Opening at the YJCC 11/03
Speech by Sam Lissner

My name is Samuel Jurek Urbach Lissner. I am 17 years old and I attend Cresskill High School. I have hopes and dreams. I wish to accomplish many great things in life. I wish to make a difference. But, I am only one person. Recently, I submitted my college applications, I hope to study government and politics. When I arrive at school, I will unload my clothes, my golf clubs, my books, and my personals. I will live in the traditional dormitory, equipped with all of the modern luxuries a college student could ask for. . . a super computer -- T-1 access, a DVD player, a stereo system, and I will surely fill the wall with posters depicting scenes from my favorite movies and musical groups. I will be living with hundreds of other privileged and eager 18 years olds. . . all of us ready to tackle our futures; immersed in a society existing for our education and embetterment. I will frequent the Hilell. . . lead Saturday morning services, take trips with friends, play Frisbee in the quad, and study with the accomplished experts in their fields. And yet I will complain. It is inevitable that no matter what school I end up attending, a poor test score, an all-nighter overload, or some other excess stress will prompt a call to my parents looking for some kind of support, aid, or guidance. Life is just not fair I'll say. . . its just not fair. When my grandfather was a teenager he had hopes and dreams as well. Krakow Poland was a bustling city with a vibrant Jewish community. On Friday afternoons women crowded the market squares ready to prepare proper festive Sabbath meals for their families. . . their young daughters trailing behind them intently watching their mothers' every move. L'dor V'dor, from generation to generation. Pops, like most other Jewish boys, attended Cheder where he learned the lessons of the Mishnah and Gemora. He studied Hebrew, spoke a dynamic Yiddish, and accompanied his grandfather to the synagogue across the street from his ancestral home. Pops played soccer with his friends, he frequently worked in his father's tailor shop. Above all, Pops basked in the warmth of family - grandparents, three brothers, two sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, and loving parents. . . all enriching his adolescence. When my grandfather turned 17, his life, and the lives of so many. . . changed forever. In 1939, my grandfather witnessed the Nazi occupation of his village. The SS wasted little time and ordered the first phase of what became the Final Solution in 1941 - pops and his family would have to report to the Krakow Ghetto. Cramped in one room, the eight members of his family had no privacy, no amenities, and little food. It was reality. . . life just wasn't fair. Pops was selected for a work duty, and said goodbye to his family for the last time on the eve of the liquidation of the Cracow Ghetto, March 13, 1943-Ripped away from his religion, his family, his home, and his life, Pops lived through the most gruesome and horrifying years imaginable.

He witnessed the hangings of his closest friends, the shooting deaths of hundreds of his brethren, and watched powerless, as the world as he knew it. . . fell apart in front of his very eyes. Krakow Plashov, where the infamous Amon Geothe would stand on his porch and use a sniper rifle to practice for his hunting trips. . . he practiced on the Jews working below. Gross Rosen, where doctors injected women with oil to test their tolerance levels. These are places Pops saw. . . things Pops witnessed. and I was born in March of 1986, exactly 43 years after Pops saw his family for the last time. I have hopes and dreams. I wish to accomplish many great things in life. I wish to make a difference. But I am only one personJust one in a family of four. . . one in a class of 82. . . one in a town of 7 thousand. . . one in a country of 280 million. . . one in a world of 6 billion. . . What can I do to affect change; I am just one person. . . just one voice. . . Take a journey back to 1943. In a time when treachery meant death. . . In a time when aiding a Jew meant death. . . when doing what was right. . . Meant death. . . Could you have done it?. . . Could you stand up to the Nazi juggernaut? Could you represent the force of good? Could you stand up to the omnipotent opposition and protect the lives of the innocent. . . , those people who had done no wrong, committed no crimes, but were sentenced to death because of their beliefs? Oscar Schindler did. And while he was imprisoned numerous times for his actions, Schindler embarked on a campaign to save the lives of those he believed had no reason to be deprived of the right to life. He bribed, he stole, he gambled, and he gave up a fortune for us. . . for our people, to save lives. When the Nazis told him that he had to employ at least one hundred workers in his factory to use labor from the ghetto, he made work for a hundred. . . ; and when the Nazis changed that number to a thousand, Schindler found extra space, took on work, and made sure that he had a thousand. When the Nazis told him that Jews were no longer allowed to work outside of concentration camps, Schindler personally financed the construction of his own concentration camp adjoining Emalia, a concentration camp in which not one Jew was ever killed. And when they told him he would have to move west to keep his workers from the next transport to Auschwitz, he relocated his factory to Brünlitz, deep in what is now the Czech Republic. Do you stand up to injustices. . . ?Do you stand up to what you know to be morally and ethically wrong? Would you have stood up to what was wrong in Nazi Germany? Then know that Schindler's actions are responsible for my grandfather's survival, my Pops, a hero who sits amongst you today. A man who ascended from the depths of the Holocaust to become a strong, confidant, and successful leader in his community. Know that Schindler's actions are responsible for Pops' survival. Without Schindler. . . without this man who had respect for humanity and did not succumb to Goebbels' propaganda driven attack on the innocent-I would not be here today. My grandfather Sol Urbach has made it one of his life's missions to educate people about the atrocities of the Shoah, the Holocaust, to ensure that they never happen again. He recounts the story of a demarcation. When placed in a selection line, Pops, feeling uneasy about his position, stepped out, approached Schindler, and asked in a small voice whether he was in the right line. . . Without a word, Schindler took Pops by the hand, and led him to safety. This story is quite incredible. When a Jew stepped out of a line-- he or she was immediately shot, but with Schindler so close, the SS were frightened that they might strike the commander instead of the young man. But Schindler did not have to save my grandfather. He could have let him go to Auschwitz. Pops is a great carpenter, but nevertheless, Schindler could have easily found a more experienced Polish craftsman to do the job. . . Schindler was interested in doing what was right. A creed of Altruism. And he saved the lives of over one thousand Jews. We are all individuals. Individuals living in a sea of adversity and opposition. Oscar Schindler is a testament to the fact that each one of us can make a difference. Even when faced with the gravest of opposition, Schindler did not hesitate. . . He did what he knew to be right. Schindler saved the lives of over one thousand Jews, whose descendants have become, doctors, lawyers, Ph. D. s, politicians, rabbis, cantors, directors, and controllers. . . Some of the most influential people in the modern world. We have Oscar Schindler to thank for the creation and preservation of three generations of Schindler Juden, Schindler Jews. This past summer I visited Poland for the second time. For 10 days, with Pops and Grandma by our side, my parents, my sister and I, traveled across Eastern Europe, visiting memorials, concentration camps, and looking for some evidence, some remnance of a Jewish community. We found little. Kalvaria; a city that was once the home of a Jewish population of thousands. . . No one could tell us where the synagogue was located. We eventually found it. . . it now houses a furniture show room. We visited the town hall and were told that all records prior to 1960 were destroyed in a flood. Conveniently, any physical evidence of Jewish life in the city was gone. We visited Auschwitz, where we prayed together at the wall of death, and listened as the young tour guides described the selection processes. A country that had once been the home of the most orthodox of Jewish life, has become a place where I, a Jew, felt unwelcome. As a descendant of holocaust survivors, I learned of the horrors that befell our people at an early age. I learned about the gas that claimed the lives of thousands, the routine torture, the malnourishment, the shootings. . . the imprisonment. All inflicted upon my people. . . my family. In 1988 Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard, a force which he modeled after Hitler's prized SS, launched a chemical attack on the Kurdish population of Halabjah. Ten thousand men, women, and children were heartlessly killed. Innocence rendered hapless by the brutality of the Iraqis. As operation Iraqi freedom has progressed, our operatives have uncovered evidence of hundreds of torture chambers, containing the most brutal mechanisms of affliction. Thousands of people have been found imprisoned for such inexcusable crimes as denouncing Saddam Hussein, men who were incarcerated in three by three foot cells, given one meal a day, and never provided an equitable trial. It puzzles me that when confronted with a situation that possess so many similarities to that of our recent past. . . my community. . . the Jewish community. . . has once again sided with those who would have us withdraw from Iraq, and would rather the US once again cover itself in the isolationist blanket championed by President Monroe nearly 200 years ago. As someone whose family was killed for the same reasons as those Kurdish families, and in the same manner that the Kurds were slaughtered in Iraq, I cannot agree with those who would have us retreat. I am here today because of Oscar Schindler, a man who believed in what was right, and did what he had to do to save those he could. We have that opportunity today, the United States, the most powerful nation in the world, What are we going to do? As a powerful Jewish community we can affect change! But what are we going to do to ensure the safety of Jews and those who are being condemned across the globe? The French chief rabbi has warned the community to only wear Kippot in private. Anti Semitism rages in Austria, Germany, Poland, and even here at home. The world is changing, and as a community will we influence the changes. Will we take steps? Will we act? Will we be righteous? Will we have the courage that Oscar Schindler had? We are here to remember the actions of a hero: Oscar Schindler And we can learn from his actions, for we have the chance to save the lives of many. Let us join together and acknowledge the human rights violations of the world, and get involved. . . let's take a page out of Schindler's book, we have the power to save lives, and to insure the safety of generations to come. My name is Samuel Jurek Urbach Lissner. I am 17 years old and I attend Cresskill High School. Like your children, like your grandchildren. . . I have hopes and dreams. I yearn to accomplish many great things. I wish to make a difference. Thanks to Oscar Schindler I will have the opportunity to do so. Thank you Zachor And never again. . .

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