Holocaust survivor urges GTA-area high school students to 'fight back' against bigotry
Published Friday, November 8, 2013 6:14PM EST
Last Updated Friday, November 8, 2013 6:23PM EST
In late August of 1942, German soldiers rounded up the 2,000 Jews living in the Polish town of Rokitno. As the soldiers began separating children from their parents, many began to panic. People began running, and soldiers open fired. Dozens were instantly killed.
Alex Levin, just 10 years old at the time, and his older brother were able to escape. Their parents and younger brother, however, were killed in the massacre.
On Friday, Levin shared his story with students at Maple High School just outside of Toronto, part of the 33rd annual Holocaust Education Week. The program, run by the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, is dedicated to sharing stories and lessons from the Holocaust with events happening all across the Greater Toronto Area.
“The smell of the wounds, I still feel it now,” Levin told students, many of them hanging on his every word. “It’s indescribable when you see what war is.”
After the massacre in his village, Levin and his brother wandered for weeks, but eventually decided to head back to Rokitno. Along the way, the boys were told by people that German soldiers were still in their town. They were advised to hide.
For 18 months, Levin and his brother hid deep in the forest. Every so often, they would carefully venture into the nearest town to beg for food from residents.
“Our mind was only concentrated on what to put in your mouths. We were always, always hungry,” he told the students.
In January of 1944, Levin and his brother got word from local farmers that their town had been liberated. He and his brother ventured back to Rokitno.
There, the “Russian liberators” as Levin calls them, split the brothers into different units. At just 12 years old, Levin became a “boy messenger” in the Russian army.
It’s estimated that 6 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust, including more than one million children.
Levin says that it is his duty to share his experience to the next generation, despite how horrific the experience was.
“A terrible, terrible feeling what people can do to people,” Levin said. “You should fight back bigotry.”
Holocaust Education Week events run until Saturday, including a candle-light ceremony at the Shaarei Shomayim Congregation in Toronto at 7:30pm. CTV is a sponsor of Holocaust Education Week.