Anita Ron Schorr discusses surviving the Holocaust

Anita Ron Schorr

Nov. 4, 2013 - Anita Ron Schorr discussed how she survived the Holocaust as part of the "Echoes and Reflections: A Multimedia Curriculum on the Holocaust" series.

The event, sponsored by the University's School of Education and the Connecticut Office of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), took place in the Center for Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences on the North Haven Campus.

"When you hear a witness to history, you become a witness," Marji Lipchez-Shapiro, director of education for the Connecticut Office of the ADL, said in introducing Schorr. "It is our expectation that you are going to tell Anita's story when you go home tonight to your children and friends. This is the way that history stays alive."

"Echoes and Reflections," a 10-part curriculum on the Holocaust attended by 26 middle and high school teachers from Connecticut and Massachusetts, used visual history, testimony from survivors and other witnesses, and additional primary source documents, including maps, photographs, timelines and literature excerpts.

About 100 people, including the 26 teachers, turned out to hear Schorr speak.

A native of Czechoslovakia, she was arrested with her family in 1939 when she was 8. Her parents and brother were killed, but her courage helped her to survive at several concentration camps, including Terezin, Auschwitz and as a slave laborer in Hamburg. She was finally liberated when she reached Bergen-Belsen.

After liberation, Schorr joined the Haganah, a Jewish parliamentary organization, and fought in the Israeli War of Independence. 

"I was a young girl who went through hell and going through hell like I went left scars," Schorr said. "It left very deep scars. (Going to Israel) was my first step that I felt maybe there is a reason why I survived. Slowly, slowly, I made myself into a human being. Slowly, I appreciated things. Slowly I opened myself to friendships and, a little later, to love."

Schorr married a fellow Czech and lived on a kibbutz until 1959, when the couple came to the U.S. Trained as a commercial artist, Schorr began telling her story 20 years ago after attending the opening of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

Schorr discussed "the planned dehumanization" of the Holocaust and discussed surviving such horrors as the loss of family, starvation, enduring medical experiments and escaping the gas chambers.

"That was their plan: Take away your humanity, take away your courage and take away what is called humankind. You more or less lived like an animal," she said. "All you saw was a gigantic mountain of black smoke -- the smoke of innocent people."

Nicole Kolej, an English teacher at Platt High School in Meriden, Conn. who attended Echoes and Reflections, came away impressed with Schorr.

"She has a tough, but calming spirit, a positive attitude, and most importantly, she is not angry," Kolej said. "Her energy really spoke to me. Our students have extremely tough lives, and her message of hope and positivity can reach them now.  It has to, because she told us that as teachers that is our job. We gave her our commitment to do everything that we can, as educators, to deliver this message.  The education that we received from the conference was invaluable, and the moments we were able to spend with her will last me a lifetime."

Kolej called Schorr "the ultimate primary source."   

"One can travel the world and have all of the money in the world, but that does not matter," she added. "What matters is the resilience of the human spirit and our impact.  This day was a true reminder of that.  I can't even begin to tell you how grateful I am to have been a part of the Echoes and Reflections conference. I have never been more inspired."

Schorr, 83, has told her powerful story to over 7,000 people - most of them students - in 2013. It was her third time speaking at Quinnipiac.

"I feel that it is a mission," she said. "Personally, I think that I'm privileged at a time in my life right now that I can do something so important. I'm very grateful that I have the privilege. Every time I go to a school and empower young people, there's nothing more exciting.  My message is against prejudice, against discrimination and it encompasses bullying. I use my background of being in the Holocaust. Hitler was the ultimate bully. He bullied the world and we have to be careful to protect the freedom we have."