Video: Watch the interview at The-Journal.com
By Emily Rice
Journal Staff writer
A group of students from Dolores High School had the opportunity to speak with a Holocaust survivor, Georgette Rozental, on Jan. 25.
The ninth-grade English class is reading “Night” by Elie Wiesel, a firsthand account of his time in Auschwitz.
A Spanish class was also in attendance because Rozental speaks fluent Spanish, with a French accent, a unique experience for the students.
Two Dolores High School teachers, English teacher Jessica Mulvihill-Kuntz, and Spanish teacher Liliana Argento, teamed up for the presentation because it was close to Holocaust Remembrance Day, Jan. 27.
“When Lilli said that one of her best family friends was a Holocaust survivor, I said, ‘This is why we teach, is to do this kind of project to get kids to really kind of open up and see what the world is about and what happens to people,’” Mulvihill-Kuntz said.
Rozental spoke to the students via phone call from Argento’s phone. She told the students her overall story and as she spoke, more specific memories came back to her.
She was born in Paris, France, to a wealthy Jewish family. She and her siblings were sent to the south of France to live with family friends in hiding. She told a story of having to hide her bike in a haystack and walk to their new school to protect their identities.
They were often stopped by German soldiers on their walk to school and forced to lie about their religion, many times telling the soldiers they were Lutheran, not Jewish.
“This experience of talking to Georgette meant a lot because a lot of people complain about going to school every day when she was away from her family and had to hide for five years,” Tawnee Benavidez, a Spanish 3 student, said. “I just think that is an incredible experience and being able to talk to someone who had experienced all that.”
Freshman Elizabeth Fredrick said she felt humbled to be able to speak to someone who survived World War II, and the experience made her realize how much “faith and hope” it must have taken to have survived.
While Rozental was never sent to a concentration camp herself, she was in hiding for five years, during a time that one of her uncles died in a concentration camp. She expressed to the students how lucky she and her family felt to have survived the war.
After the war, Europe was left in ruins and without enough food. Rozental married at age 20 and had a child. She and her husband decided to relocate to Venezuela, where he had family, for a chance at a better life.
“It was just overall amazing,” Bri Suckla, a Spanish 3 student, said. “Moving from northern France to southern France ... then moving to Venezuela to a totally different country with people you do not know and then finding survivors there and find more people had died – that was a lot.”
Freshman student Ryder Green said he felt honored to speak to a survivor of the Holocaust.
“There are not a lot of Holocaust survivors, and for one person to speak to a little class in a little town like Dolores and speak to us about that ... I just thought it was really cool to learn about it,” Green said.
Throughout her time speaking with students, Rozental reiterated how important it was to stay hopeful during her time in hiding.
“You cannot live without hope,” Rozental said. “You have to believe that one day it will be finished. It cannot be like that because it is not human.”