Thanks to MBS grandparent Betty Schwartz, who spoke at Middle School Meeting on Wednesday, March 29 to share stories about her parents’ experience during the Holocaust and emphasize the importance of education in combatting racism, hatred and prejudice.
Mrs. Schwartz, the grandmother of MBS 8th Grader Mason Schwartz, told the students that her father, Murray Pantirer, was saved from certain death thanks to Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist who employed him and 1,200 other Jews in his factories to keep them out of the Nazi concentration camps.
Of his family of nine, Murray Pantirer was the sole survivor of the Holocaust. After being liberated in 1945, he met the love of his life, Lucy, in a displaced persons camp in Linz, Austria. They were married in 1947 and immigrated to the United States where they build a new life together.
Mrs. Schwartz said that her father was passionate about sharing his story with the next generation. Steven Spielberg asked him to be the keynote speaker at the Washington, D.C. premiere of the movie Schindler’s List, where President and Mrs. Clinton were present.
“As eloquently and passionately as my Dad spoke on many occasions, he always said his most important audiences were the children in the classroom,” said Mrs. Schwartz. “He often told me in Yiddish, ‘Mi draft lerner da kinder’ — ‘We must teach the children.’”
She emphasized that education is the key to fighting racism and prejudice. “Hatred is not genetically transmitted. You have to be taught to fear, hate and even murder those who are different from you. The war on persecution and genocide must be fought not just on the battlefield, but in the schools,” she said. “Education is a precious legacy and will be fundamental in the defense of our freedom and our future.”
She concluded her presentation by challenging the students to think about “what would I have done?” and “what will I do in the face of racism, bullying, and hatred?”