Holocaust survivor speaks at Saint Mike’s

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Saint Michael Catholic High School hosted a special guest on Tuesday evening of last week, who shared a message of strength, hope, caring and compassion. Dr. Eva Olsson, 93, is an author, motivational speaker and Holocaust survivor. Born in Eastern Hungary in 1924, Eva was 20 when she and her family were forced into box cars and taken to the Nazi concentration camp, Auschwitz, in Poland. “We were told that we were being taken to work in a brick factory,” Eva remembers. “1.2 million Jews were murdered [in Auschwitz], including most of my family.”

Throughout her presentation, Eva recounted many of the atrocities she witnessed, and fell victim to, while she was in the hands of the Nazis. As prisoners, they were given very little to eat and drink, and were made to live and work in harsh and unsanitary conditions. Eva spent time in Auschwitz, working at the Krupp Ammunition Factory, and, finally, at the concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen, from where they were liberated by British and Canadian troops in 1945. “We were liberated at 11:00am on April 15, 1945,” Eva said. “We were supposed to be shot at 3:00 that afternoon.”

Eva has been telling her story at schools and to community groups since the 1990s. She says she gets asked all the time how she finds the strength to tell her story over and over again. “I made the commitment to myself not to allow my pain to control my life,” she says bravely. “Somebody has to talk about it.”

While recounting her story, Eva also spread an important message about the way we raise our children. She explained how children are affected by the role models they have around them. She says that the difference between a great leader like Ghandi, and one like Hitler, is the choices they made and the attitude they had towards others. “I want to stress that we need to eliminate hate,” she told the audience. “When you have to urge to say ‘I hate’, switch the channel. Think of someone your age who died because they were hated for no reason.” She also implored the parents in the audience to raise their children in a loving environment that shows compassion and respect towards others. “Your children are the future,” she said. “Children learn by example, and that is the only way we can teach.”

At the end of her presentation, Eva was met with a standing ovation from the crowd. It was impossible not to be deeply moved by her talk and inspired by how Eva has turned an extremely traumatic period in her life into something she can use to help others. “Nobody should walk with their head down, unless they are picking someone up,” she said. “May the sun always shine within your door.”

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