Fairfield woman describes surviving Hitler during lecture

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Holocaust survivor Anita Ron Schorr of Fairfield addresses the audience during her lecture at the Center of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences at Quinnipiac University on Nov. 4.

An 83-year-old Fairfield resident knows what it is like to take on the ultimate bully, Adolf Hitler.

“Hitler bullied the world and we have to be careful to protect the freedom we have,” said Anita Ron Schorr, a Holocaust survivor who addressed about 100 people during a lecture at Quinnipiac University on Nov. 4.

Schorr was at Quinnipiac as part of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) training program, “Echoes and Reflections: A Multimedia Curriculum on the Holocaust” series. The School of Education at Quinnipiac sponsored the event.

A native of Czechoslovakia, Schorr 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 United States. 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,” she said. “You more or less lived like an animal. All you saw was a gigantic mountain of black smoke — the smoke of innocent people.”

Schorr has told her powerful story to more than 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.”

“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.

“When you hear a witness to history, you become a witness,” said Marji Lipchez-Shapiro, director of education for the Connecticut Office of the ADL,  during her introduction of 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.”

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