Handler gives inspirational speech regarding Holocaust


Photo by Maria Martin

Written by Megan Marples, Life and Times Editor

A Holocaust survivor named Helen Handler gave a presentation to students on November 12 during 4th period. This witty elderly woman survived some of the darkest times in early modern history, the Holocaust. In 40 minutes, she told us her story of growing up in death and destruction. Helen was 15 years old when she was brutally separated from her family and sent to Auschwitz, one of the most ruthless concentration camps in Europe.

Although the Jews were faced with difficult times, Handler said, “We never attacked each other because we always respected each other.”

She went on to talk about the Jewish cooperation and patience they had with each other. No matter what language they spoke, everyone was kind.

Enduring the concentration camp was also psychologically scarring. When asked how she persevered through harsh treatment she said, “I was young and loved life. I talked to God every day . . .all I asked from God (was to) please give me enough strength-strength to go today.”

Handler also talked about bombing procedures. She spoke of the Americans bombing Auschwitz, not realizing innocent Jews were inside. They had to duck and cover to protect themselves from the onslaught. If someone didn’t stand up right away, they were shot to death by an SS soldier, no questions asked. There were worse ways to die. Many bodies, living and dead, were burned. Handler said, “We could see the sky being red from the crematorium.”

In her speech, she would often pause in the middle of sharing her story to teach the audience a lesson. All of them could be summed up in one word, tolerance. Little acts of hatred can spiral out of control and cause irrevocable rifts in society. It starts within. Being rude to a fellow classmate doesn’t compare to the Holocaust, but small actions can grow out of proportion. Looking within yourself and forgiving others is the key to a more peaceful world.

When asked why she talks about the Holocaust so openly Handler said, “I had to prove to God He didn’t make a mistake because He saved me.” She wants people to remember that it happened, that Jews suffered. That the Holocaust was real.

At the end of her speech, she told the audience her story is written in a book. Valerie Foster, the author of the book, interviewed Handler over the course of five years to create The Risk of Sorrow. Anyone who is interested in learning more can read this novel and understand Handler’s story.