Every year, the Rho Kappa history honor society invites David Mermelstein, a Holocaust survivor, to come and share his experiences with the Columbus student body. David begins his story in Czechoslovakia where he lived as a young child. He was an average boy until 1939 when World War II broke out in Europe. “That’s when things started to change” says Mermelstein.
Mermelstein was only in the fourth grade when he was ejected from school for his Jewish heritage. His large family was robbed of their home and business as the Nazis proceeded with their invasion of Europe. Out of his entire family, he was the only survivor. “I’m hoping to tell you guys what happened to me, and why I am a holocaust survivor” said David, as he elaborates on why he keeps repeating his story to new people. “We want to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Students who attended the event expected to hear tales of personal and serious experiences from an eyewitness, but got something more out of the experience. “I just wanted to hear some insight about a survivor who went through a really rough experience” explained Daniel Sanchez-Lopez, a junior who attended the event. What students didn’t expect was how much of a profound effect the story would have on them.
“It was emotional, how families got separated and never had a chance to say goodbye” says another attendee, Aaron Jimenez. Stories involving Mermelstein and his brothers had the most impact on Jimenez. “I have two little brothers” he explained. Hearing of what happened to the Mermelstein brothers affected him on a personal level because of his own brothers.
Mermelstein is aware of the impact his story has on the students. “They’re shocked to hear the things that really happened from somebody that really was there”. The students reaction to the events told by Mermelstein’s seem to suggest that this is true. “The most impactful part of his speech was how God affect each person that was able to survive … and how faith played a big factor in surviving” Sanchez-Lopez expressed.
This set of students will not be the final group to be touched by Mermelstein’s story. He will likely return next year to share his experience with new members of the Columbus family and will continue to do so as long as he possibly can.