We were Human Beings
Monday October 30 2017, the Schwartz Auditorium at St. Francis Xavier University was packed full with students, staff and members of the Antigonish community, sitting on the edge of their seats listening to Holocaust survivor Nate Leipciger speak.
Nate Leipciger was born in Chorzow; Poland where he lived until the age of 11 when the Nazi’s invaded. By the age of 15 he and his family were transferred to Auschwitz-Birkenau.
It was on July 1 1943, that Nate and his family were deported from the Sosnowiec Ghetto to Auschwitz-Birkenau. It was there that Leipciger’s mother and sister were killed, him and his father were able to stay together throughout the duration of the Holocaust, but on many occasions, were almost separated.
Leipciger said that they were completely dehumanized. They were not allowed to take anything with them, not even a single belonging from home.
Throughout the lecture Leipciger really emphasized how the victims of the Holocaust were not just Jews, “we were doctors, writers, philosophers and human beings." He said that when someone is remembering the Holocaust, to remember the victims and survivors as human beings, and that it is important for people to try and get to know who these individuals were, Nate said that, when studying the Holocaust and reading books on survivors, try to ask the questions of, “who were they?” Not just in the sense of victims, but in the sense of them as a human being.
For a person that has been face to face with the ends of life, and dealt with hardships that many will never be able to imagine, Nate Leipciger has not let his past wear him down in life. Leipciger has led a life trying to educate people on the events of the Holocaust. He has lived a full life, and still manages to have a sense of humor.
When asked how he managed to persevere and keep going everyday he said, “there are bright lights in an absolutely black night."
Throughout the night, Leipciger expressed his frustration about how the world knew what was going on with the Holocaust, by 1941 the world knew what was happening, and yet, it stood idle and watched as millions of people died.
Leipciger warned that the world is doing this now again. There is hate, and violence being pushed onto people in our world and we read about this everyday in the news, or through social media and we’re staying idle. He stressed that history cannot repeat itself, and we must stand up for those who do not have a voice.
Nate explained that it was a very hard transition after the Holocaust had ended, he became very sick for 5 days after he had been liberated and thought he was going to die. The even harder part was the journey trying to find family members that had survived, which unfortunately was slim.
Even though Leipciger had lost most of his family in the Holocaust, he has grown a new family. He married and had 4 children, 9 grandchildren and on his birthday, he is about to welcome his first great grandchild into the world.
At the end of the evening, Leipciger took a moment to thank the students of StFX. Leipciger thanked the students for being so tentative, and for everyone that came out. He commented that StFX really is one of the best Universities in the country.