Hilda Mantelmacher, a Jewish-born Czechoslovakian Holocast survivor, spoke at Temple University Harrisburg on Wednesday (3/23/16) about the horrors endured while at Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps. She provided students and guests with a detailed introduction along with her experiences, a documentary, and answered questions afterward.
She began sharing her Holocaust stories after watching a news report about two men claiming that the tragic events "were made up by the Jews." This offended Hilda deeply and prompted her to educate people about her first-hand experiences. She also shared heartfelt stories about her family, friends, and post-Holocaust struggles.
A woman in the audience asked, "Have you ever visited the Holocaust Museum?" to which Hilda replied, "No, it would be too painful." The horrific memories that she carries prevent her from visiting the Holocaust Museum. However, she thanks everyone that has taken time to visit the museum and educate themselves about the history. She encourages everyone to learn about the Holocaust so that something like it never happens again.
Throughout her presentation at Temple Harrisburg, Hilda often took a moment to mention how love is more important than hate. She explained that hatred and prejudice can lead to tragedy, and you should treat everyone with courtesy and respect, even if you don't particularly like them. She cited an example of a guest speaking appearance, when a young man "would not make eye contact with her." She thought the young man did not like her until she sat down and he approached her. The young man said, "you must hate me," to which Hilda replied, "Why would I hate you? I have never even met you before." The young man went on to explain how he discovered old family pictures linking back to the Nazi Party. Hilda explained to the young man, "I don't hate you... I love you. If I hated you, that would make me no better than the Nazis." She concluded the story by mentioning how she comforted the young man with a hug.
During the open question part of her presentation, a student asked how old she was during the tragic events. Hilda said, she does not know but then took a moment to mention how she wakes up and has "bread, water, and toilet tissue everyday," so to her, "everyday is my birthday."
We sincerely thank Hilda for sharing her personal accounts with us at Temple University Harrisburg. We are also grateful to Heather Kattouf who arranged this opportunity for students in the Freshman Year Program, and for the community.