Irving Roth, a holocaust survivor, visited campus Monday night to share his story with ORU. The event started with an introduction from Pastor Lyndon Allen of the Christian United for Israel Central Coordinator. Allen proceeded to discuss Anti-Semitism and encouraged the audience to stand with Israel and the Jews.
“It’s up to us to be educated about the holocaust. It’s up to us to stand against Anti-Semitism,” said Allen. “Your participation in this fight is greatly appreciated and deeply needed.”
Roth grew up in Czechoslovakia during the time of the Nazi take over. There he lived a normal life as a child. He went to school and played on the soccer team. His father owned a business, and he lived with his older brother, parents and grandparents.
Roth described his life as beautiful. However, Roth’s life came to a halt when Germany dismembered Czechoslovakia in 1939. Jews began to receive harsh discrimination and persecution.
“I didn’t understand the Geo-Politics of the world, but I do know in 1939 the morning I went to meet my friends in the park, I get to the gate and there’s a big sign [that says] “Jews and Dogs are forbidden to enter,’ Roth said. “This I understood.”
Jews were not aloud to go out at night, own luxuries or businesses and even go to school. Roth discussed how he was separated from his family and taken to a death camp. In his mind, he couldn’t understand why the Jews were receiving such a cruel punishment. About 437,000 Jews were taken to death camps in just 53 days, and about 90% were murdered upon arrival.
“What crime did I, and the Jewish people, commit to be murdered…by the people of Europe,” Roth asked the audience?
He described the sudden turn on the Jews as a transformation and dehumanization of society. Roth was only 15 years old when he was taken to a death camp. He managed to survive selections, a process where doctors decided which Jews were ill enough to die, and death marches.
Finally, Roth was rescued by American soldiers and soon reunited with his parents who also survived.
Roth encouraged the audience to understand the forces working against the Jews even today.
“The truth has no relation to what it is publicized,” he said. “Make sure your children and grandchildren know what’s going on. This propaganda is just that: propaganda.”
Roth’s story of survival resonated with the audience.
“It humanized the whole situation,” said ORU student Savanna Moore. “You read about it in books but actually hearing and thinking about how it all really happened and how he was a real person who went into the concentration camps. It was really powerful. I’m really grateful I got to hear all of [Roth’s story].