GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – A Holocaust survivor shared his story with students at Furman University Thursday night.
The speech was one of several sponsored by Furman’s Jewish Student Association to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. The speech came three months after a former football player there was charged with vandalism, accused of drawing swastikas in a dorm.
At 80-years-old, Sami Steigmann said he’s the youngest Holocaust survivor you’ll ever meet. For the past 12 years, he’s been sharing his story with students.
“I want them to learn the story of a survivor, talk about it, and also personalize it…what it means to them to tell the story of a Holocaust survivor,” Steigmann said.
It’s a story Furman students were interested to hear Thursday.
“Just to hear that perspective from someone and have this experience is really important to take advantage of when it’s still an opportunity that’s around,” student Mia Saltrelli said.
Steigmann was born 1939 in what was then Romania but is now Ukraine. When he was just a and year and a half old, he and his parents were taken to a Romanian labor camp, where his parents were forced into slave labor and he was subjected to Nazi medical experiments that left damage he said he’s still feeling today.
“I have suffered all my life, and will suffer for the rest of my life…in pain,” Steigmann said.
He said he’s not letting what happened to him define him, and he wants to use what happened to him to educate young people about the Holocaust and to show them that it’s important to take a stand.
“They have to become active,” he said. “It’s not sufficient on social media…to write whatever it is,” he said. “All the change in the world [has] been done by the young people. To make a better world for themselves and future generations, they have to become active.”
Steigmann’s parents survived the camp after it was liberated by the Red Army, but he said only two of 42 members of his father’s family survived.