On January 27th, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, ISY worked with Ms. Hila Oved, ISY Mom and Israli Embassy official, to invite Marianne Soher, a survivor of the Holocaust, to a Zoom meeting where she shared with us her story. Being a child raised during the Holocaust, she was able to give us a touching, first hand account on the many difficulties she and her family faced. Her words moved every participant in the Zoom meeting of over 90 participants, and there is no doubt we all learned a valuable life lesson from her presentation.
Ms. Soher started by introducing herself and giving the audience a short backstory to her life. She recalled escaping from Paris to a hidden house in Southern France with no electricity or gas. Most of her time was spent in the kitchen of this house with her younger brothers for three years, while her mother worked hard to provide food for her children. Marianne was left with the responsibility to take care of her younger siblings, who were unhappy to be placed under her care and were very naughty to her. While her mother was away, Marianne had to take charge of her mother’s duties. She remembered having to walk through a forest to get milk for her siblings, retrieving water from a pump, and finding wood to maintain the fire in the fireplace.
Despite these challenges that she experienced while taking care of her siblings at a young age, she stated that “everything was alright except for the fear.” She also praises her mother’s efforts to keep her family healthy, saying “I don’t remember having been hungry because of my mother”. Marianne’s story inspired the students of ISY, with an attendee reflecting, “Hearing how she was able to support her family and endure difficult circumstances at a young age made me admire her strength. I don’t think I could be as strong as her if I were in the same position as her. Her story reminded me to be grateful for what I have and to get through hard situations without giving up.”
Marianne’s story was full of strong and compelling lessons. For example, she discussed that in order to prevent similar events from happening again, we have to keep remembering what has happened and on occasions in which a person is spreading hate, we must keep remembering to love and accept everybody for who they are.
Her experiences with the Holocaust have helped her gain great insight into the importance of making choices. She said, “We are responsible for our choices” and “Choosing to follow hate and destruction would lead you to become hateful and destructive.” She also mentioned that “Hate and love stick to you. This is why your choices are so important — if you choose bad, it will stick with you”. Ms. Soher ended her speech by reminding us it is important to confront our fears instead of surrendering to them.
Her zoom meeting was a very special opportunity for students to not only learn about the role they play in preventing such events from repeating, but also the various life lessons that Ms. Soher learned through her experience during the Holocaust. We are very thankful to Ms. Soher for making time to talk to ISY students and give them the rare opportunity to listen to her firsthand personal experience of the Holocaust.