Eloise Gordon is an 8th grade student at Stanley British Primary School in Denver, Colorado. On May 8, 2013, she addressed teachers, students, and community members at the fifth annual Facing History and Ourselves Benefit Dinner in Denver. At the event, she talked about how studying the Holocaust in her Facing History and Ourselves class helped her connect with her own personal history. Below is an edited version of her speech.
My grandmother is a living link to the Holocaust. She was born in Hungary before Hitler’s army invaded, before millions of Jews like her were rounded up and slaughtered. She saw hatred and bigotry, helped along by the silence of people who just stood by and watched, doing nothing as her friends died, or were treated like animals.
My grandmother saw the worst evil that people can do.
But my grandmother also saw the best of people. She survived the Holocaust because she was rescued by Raul Wahlenberg - a man who was willing to stand up against the evil. She came here and built a life. For all the horrible things she has seen, my grandmother never lost hope and has always lived her life looking forward.
Listening to her, and to her friends - one of them a survivor of the concentration camps - her story became part of my own. She is as much a part of me as the color of my hair.
But what I never really understood until recently, until my Facing History teacher asked us to express what we had learned about the Holocaust, was how incredibly lucky I am to be able to look into her eyes.
It’s not just because she’s my grandmother and I love her and I’m glad she’s here. I am lucky because I am part of the last generation that will ever have the chance to look into the eyes of a living survivor.
I am 13 years old. I was born 65 years after the Holocaust ended. Even now, too few people get the chance that I have had to hear about the Holocaust directly from people who survived it.
That’s an amazing gift. It also is a responsibility.
I have a responsibility to remember. To remember the stories of my grandmother and my grandfather – and the stories of the 11 million who didn’t survive those awful years. Hopefully my sculpture can play some small part in keeping that memory alive.
I also feel a responsibility to try to create the kind of community where something like the Holocaust could never happen again. To stand up for someone - or for a group of people - who are being picked on simply because they are different. A responsibility to be a voice that includes rather than excludes.
I have a responsibility not to forget. The way I studied the Holocaust in my Facing History class with my teacher David Marais will help me remember – because we learned with our heads and our hearts. Yes, we learned about dates and events, but we also read diaries and learned about real people. We learned about the horrible and the heroic acts. And we learned about those who failed to act at all.
Again I want to thank my teacher and Facing History for teaching me so much about this period and inspiring me to feel history.
But mostly, I want to thank my grandmother – and the other survivors here tonight – for being living examples of hope to me. And reminders of the responsibility that I have – and that we all have.
The time is now. The need is urgent. The path is education. Find out how you can help more students receive a Facing History education.