We were incredibly honoured and lucky to hear Dr. Eva Ollson speak to the intermediate students in our school. Dr. Ollson is a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps. She spoke of what it was like to be a nineteen year old young woman taken from your home, from your family, and from everything dear to you. She spoke of the hardships and sacrifices she endured. She spoke of the atrocities she witnessed. She spoke from the heart, and her audience felt this. Never before have I been in a room full of teenagers, and the only sound is a single voice. She captured our hearts and our minds.
Learning more about the Holocaust from someone who experienced it was incredible. We realized that this is an opportunity that students of the future will never have. Unfortunately, the number of survivors still alive decreases with the passing of time. We were so lucky to hear her speak.
Ultimately though, the real value of the day was not the history lesson. It was her messages for the future. She reminded us of the power of a word. She told us she does not use the word “HATE”. It is a word of power. The power to hurt others. She warned us of the danger in being a silent bystander. Bullies on the schoolyard and bullies like Hitler cannot accomplish much alone. They need the power of the silent bystander. She reminded us that we have a DUTY to speak out when we see bullying, that we must tell someone, and not stand silently by while a bully gains power.
Two things I take away from her visit. I will try never to use the word “hate”. And I will remember that, as a bystander, I have power, and I have a duty to speak out.