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Holocaust survivor to speak at Downtown Phoenix campus

October 01, 2009

Holocaust survivor Bernard Scheer will recount the true stories of great suffering, remarkable determination and many acts of heroism at a lecture on the Downtown Phoenix campus.

Scheer will present, “Personal Reflections on Surviving the Holocaust and Life After” at 7 p.m., Oct. 8 at the College of Nursing and Health Innovation Building Two, 550 N. 3rd St., Innovation Auditorium, Phoenix. The presentation is part of The ASU School of Letters and Sciences Fall 2009 Humanities Lecture Series.

The lecture series is free and open to the general public.

“Although the horrors of the Holocaust occurred over 65 years ago, the awful effects are still with us.  Passing on these personal histories is an important opportunity for future generations to recognize the danger of apathy,” said Mirna Lattouf, a senior lecturer with the School of Letters and Sciences and coordinator of the lecture series.  

Scheer was living an idyllic family life in Podhace, Poland, when Adolph Hitler’s Nazi soldiers invaded his native country in April of 1941. SS Troops held executions in the streets, burned down synagogues, destroyed cemeteries and rationed food and water for all local residents, recalls Scheer.

Scheer escaped and hid in a nearby forest, where he spent the next several years of his life until he was liberated by the American Army in May of 1945. He immigrated to New York City two years later and subsequently met Lillian, his wife of 50 years. They had two children.

“I try hard not to think about those days which were my life so many years ago,” Scheer says.  “My survival is tempered with feelings of guilt, which is difficult to overcome. It is hard to accept one has survived, when one’s family and friends are dead. There is so much to remember and so much to tell.”

Approximately six million European Jews were killed during World War II under the state-sponsored extermination by Nazi Germany. Some scholars maintain that the definition of the Holocaust should also include the Nazi murders of ethnic Poles, Romanians, Soviet civilians, Soviet prisoners of war, people with disabilities, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and other political and religious opponents. With this expanded definition, the total number of Holocaust victims is estimated between 11 and 17 million people.

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Mirna Lattouf,
Arizona State University School of Letters and Sciences
(602) 496-0638