“Love is stronger than hate. Love is easier than hate.”
The words of Judah Samet were heard by more than 100 people Monday in the latest Six O’Clock Series – put together with help by the Holocaust Remembrance Committee – where he recounted his time in the Holocaust.
Titled “The Dangers of Hate: A Panel Discussion With Holocaust Survivors and Scholars,” the discussion told of the true horrors faced in World War II, featuring the committee, Holocaust Museum employees and a panel of four Holocaust survivors.
The oldest survivor of the four was Moshe Baran, 98, who joined the resistance group, the Revengers. Because of this, he had been able to save part of his family and move his mother from place to place throughout the war.
He told the audience how he had met his wife when she had come to a barrack he was in. She had just spent 18 months in a concentration camp, but she did not let that get the better of her.
“She had one task – to teach people not to use the word ‘hate,’” Baran said, saying it was one lesson that she had taught him.
Another survivor was Samet, who not only survived the Holocaust, but he also survived the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting that occurred in Pittsburgh last year.
When telling his story, he spoke about his mother’s bravery during the war and how she managed to save hundreds of Jewish people.
When they had been loaded onto the train, she spoke to the soldiers, despite the fact that Jewish people were not to speak to them unless asked a question. The soldier held a gun to her head, but they kept her alive because she could speak fluent German and could act as a translator.
She persuaded them to supply the cart with more supplies, helping more people survive. Throughout the war, she had been resourceful and helped all four of her children survive.
“My mother was always there; she was fearless,” he said. “She was an actual Wonder Woman.”
Shulamit Bastacky had been just a baby during the war. During this time, she had been hidden in a basement by a nun and later put into an orphanage where she was found by her parents.
Bastacky was placed in care to learn to walk and talk but developed quickly. She now goes to different schools and talks about her experience.
Much like Baran’s wife, she does not say she hates those who caused her suffering.
“It takes energy to hate,” she said.
When she was 20 years old, Bastacky bought her first toy, a teddy bear. In time, she had collected 20,000 of them and gives them to different causes. She asked the audience to do the same.
“Reach out to somebody you don’t know,” she said.
Solange Lebowitz had survived the war with her whole family. She met her husband later on, and after moving to the U.S., she said she still found that hate existed.
When asked how she felt about the Nazis in America, Lebowitz recalled driving with her husband in the 1990s and seeing a young man with a swastika tattoo. She said she was mortified by it.
“I could not imagine small-town, modern America having Nazis flourishing,” she said.
Samet said that he could not compare what they were like to those he remembered from his childhood.
“They did not kill us with bullets,” he said. “They killed us with starvation.”
Recalling the thousands of bodies he had seen, Samet said that he is not surprised with the bad people in America, but everywhere has bad people. He said he still believes America to be the greatest country in the world.
“The worst in the U.S. is still 10 times better than the worst in Germany,” he said.
In Bastacky’s case, she said it made her feel “sick to her stomach,” but she could not let it bring her down. Instead of getting angry or harming them, she said there were better ways.
“We fight back by educating ourselves,” she said. “We have to be the winners against the hate. Words can kill; words can also heal.”
As the program wrapped up, Baran said that he hopes a holocaust will not happen again but gave advice for those who find themselves in any bad situation.
“Don’t decide that this is the end,” he said. “Once you’ve decided, there is no hope.”