Holocaust survivor recounts life story at UNT

Holocaust survivor recounts life story at UNT

Holocaust survivor recounts life story at UNT
November 17
23:22 2014

Steven James / Staff Writer

As part of UNT’s Jewish and Israel Studies Program’s Lecture Series, Holocaust survivor Paul Kessler spoke to a crowd of more than 300 in UNT’s Eagle Student Services Center on Monday night.

Kessler was born in September 1939 in Czechoslovakia. German soldiers invaded the country on March 15 that year and shipped his father to Auschwitz not long after.

Kessler immigrated to Los Angeles in 1951 and currently lives with his wife Pamela in Fort Worth. He speaks to student groups at the Dallas Holocaust Museum as part of the Survivors of Liberators program, as well as travelling to schools in the DFW area to give lectures. Co-sponsors for the lecture included the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County and the Dallas Holocaust Museum.

Kessler said the problem with situations like the Holocaust is not people trying to harm others, but that most bystanders do not do anything about the problem.

“The Holocaust shows us how quickly civilization can turn into savagery,” Kessler said. “The Holocaust did not start with gas chambers. It started with words.”

Kessler went on to talk about how his father and some of his other relatives were taken away by German soldiers. He said for a long time he did not know what happened to his father, but in the 1990s, when he worked in Warsaw, Poland, he found a record of his father being shipped to the concentration camp in Auschwitz, dying there June 10, 1942.

“For me, Auschwitz was not just a concentration camp,” Kessler said. “It is where I visit the remains of my father.”

Kessler said he and his mother travelled around the country until farmers saved them. He said the farmers had to hide them from the soldiers and share food with them, diminishing their own food and money supplies.

Kessler said trusting his neighbors was difficult because his own countrymen were the ones who sold his father to the Nazis.

“Ask yourself, ‘Could I do the same? Could I save a human being I hardly knew?’” Kessler said. “More people in Europe will harm you than help you, for whatever reason.”

Kessler took questions after his speech.

He was asked to come speak to UNT by Jewish and Israel Studies Program director and history professor Richard Golden.

Golden said he heard about Kessler sharing his experiences at the museum, and asked him if he could come speak at UNT.

He also said of the 6 million Jews murdered during the Holocaust, approximately 1.5 million were children.

“It’s interesting to hear what life is like there before and during the war,” Golden said. “It’s also interesting to hear how many of them go through that and then they come here and become successful.”

Golden also said this was his first time hearing the lecture of a Holocaust survivor who was a child during the time period.

“I just wanted to hear this talk,” philosophy junior Tedla Worede said. “I already knew about the Holocaust, but some of his personal experiences were pretty shocking.”

Featured Image: Paul Kessler speaks about being a Holocaust survivor last night in the Eagle Student Service Building. Photo by Edward Balusek

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