Holocaust survivor spreads message of peace and love
This was the message of 91-year-old Holocaust survivor Martin Lowenberg as he spoke to Marquette-area residents Monday evening at Northern Michigan University’s Reynolds Recital Hall.
During the event, which was coordinated by Marquette Alternative High School, Lowenberg shared his personal experiences during World War II.
As just a few days have passed since the anniversary of Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, Lowenberg began his story with that night of terror on Nov. 9, 1938. Nazis burned synagogues and vandalized Jewish schools, businesses and residences, leaving the streets blanketed in shattered glass.
In the days following the Night of Broken Glass, Jewish men ages 18 to 50 were gathered and “separated from their families, their wives and from their children, and taken to two concentration camps which were already in existence … Can you imagine?” Lowenberg asked the crowd.
The hatred toward his people continued to grow as time passed. Stores and businesses would no longer allow Jewish customers. Lowenberg had to move from his family home to a small apartment because Jews couldn’t be homeowners. Men and women had to take the middle names of “Israel” and “Sara” respectively, so they could be more easily identified by Nazis. Finally, the Jews were deported to Riga, Latvia. They had to pay for the three-day train ride and bring just one outfit, a blanket and enough food for travel. In the Latvia Ghetto, a fence separated the Jews from the Germans. Anyone seen conversing between the fence would be shot on sight.
From Latvia, youth and elderly were sent to Auschwitz, Poland. This included Lowenberg’s parents and younger twin brothers, Fritz and Kurt.
Lowenberg eventually went on to survive the torture of multiple concentration camps and even a 75-mile death march where hundreds of people died along the way, “but they were not too successful with me,” Lowenberg said.
He went on to see May 5, 1945, when the concentration camps were finally liberated.
“I was one of the fortunate ones and so was my sister, Eva, who I was able to be reunited with later on,” Lowenberg said.
The audience in the overflowing auditorium gave Lowenberg a standing ovation.
While his sister never spoke of the atrocities she faced during the war in an attempt to forget the trauma she experienced, Lowenberg believes it is crucial to tell his story.
“The reason is for people to realize, No. 1, they don’t read about history. They should know what has happened … and to remember how important these days are,” he said.
In a world that can still be so full of hate, it is important to remember the suffering faced by many throughout history so it does not continue, he said. Lowenberg himself doesn’t hold on to any anger, because “love is so much nicer.”
“Do we have to hate? Why, what for? Love heals, but hate hurts and it hurts so badly,” Lowenberg said. “I lived through hate and I don’t ever want to hear it, but the word of love, no matter who it is, is so dear to me.”
Marquette Alternative High School teacher Cindy DePetro said his emphasis on love and peace is more important than ever.
“At a time like this where I feel like our country and our communities and even our world is becoming more and more divided, and in its divisiveness it’s making people feel so unconnected,” DePetro said. “Martin’s message reminds us that we are all … human beings connected, and the more we combat hate and live in that community of love, I think we can solve more problems.”
Remembering history is the best way to ensure tragedies like the Holocaust are not repeated, she said.
“Bringing Martin here gives a face and specific stories to put it to life and we just can’t forget,” DePetro said.
Lowenberg was also to visit area schools today to spread his message to local youth.
“When Hitler wanted to have influence, he went to the youth and it was through propaganda and things that he was able to make them believe what he did,” DePetro said. “I think we need to be proactive in a positive way and I think we need to talk to our youth and explain to them what happened and why it was wrong, what we can do to change that. Our youth are our future, and our children and our children’s children deserve to make sure this never happens again.”
Lowenberg’s story was recorded so that even after the remaining Holocaust survivors have passed, their stories of suffering, torment and liberation, faith and love can be passed on for generations to come.
“It’s our job as parents, as educators, as community members, it’s our job as human beings to keep those stories alive,” DePetro said.
Trinity Carey can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.