Holocaust educator Steve Goldberg will tell the story of his friend Abe Piasek, a Holocaust survivor, at an event at 7 p.m. Oct. 18 on Zoom. It will be screened at three IU locations: IU Hillel, McNutt Residence Center and Teter Quadrangle.
Piasek passed away before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Goldberg is continuing to tell his story.
Goldberg met Piasek when Piasek came to talk at a high school where Goldberg was teaching. Later on, Piasek traveled to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum with Goldberg and a group of his students. While at the museum, Piasek told his survivor story while sitting inside a car used to transport people to concentration camps in the Holocaust, Goldberg said. He said the cars were originally for transporting livestock.
Goldberg said he and the students were surprised by Piasek’s lack of fear sitting in the same type of car he had been transported in four different times.
“The courage it took for him to do that was remarkable to me,” Goldberg said. “I already thought he was a pretty remarkable guy, but I didn’t expect him to do that.”
Goldberg said he interviewed Piasek multiple times and researched the events occurring during Piasek’s time in the Holocaust. He said Piasek asked him to keep on telling his personal story before he died.
Piasek gave his last public talk from his hospital bed to 60 or 70 people, Goldberg said.
“He was recuperating, he was in a wheelchair and wearing a neck brace,” Goldberg said. “He had told some of the nurses he was a survivor and they said, ‘Well, will you tell us your story?’ ”
In his presentation, Goldberg implements visuals and videos to reach students who may be visual learners. He said he hopes to do Piasek’s story justice and make it as powerful as possible for students who may have never heard a survivor’s story before.
“Any Holocaust survivor’s story is a cautionary tale about what happens if you let hate go unchecked,” Goldberg said. “It looks like IU is doing its best to address hate when it comes up. I’m glad to be part of the effort.”
IU Hillel, Residential Programs and Services and the Jewish Studies Student Association are co-hosting the event.
Rabbi Sue Silberberg, IU Hillel executive director, said this event is happening at a fortunate time in light of recent anti-Semitic events on campus. She said this is an opportunity for students to learn what can happen when hate against different groups of people goes unchecked.
“The Holocaust is really the epitome of people’s inhumanity and how important it is to stand up against evil and against hate, to fight for and promote diversity,” Silberberg said. “The Holocaust shows us the worst of what can happen to humanity if we don't stand up for those who are victimized.”
IU junior Levi Gettleman, Jewish Studies Student Association president, said he is excited to have the chance to help sponsor and fund this event.
“This is such an important event,” he said. “We felt that it was our responsibility and our mission to help financially support making that happen.”
Gettleman said every student, no matter their ideas or knowledge about the Holocaust, can benefit from this event.
“Each student comes to an event like this with their own knowledge, their own preconceived ideas,” Gettleman said. “I hope that students are able to come and leave with a new understanding of both what the atrocities of the Holocaust involved, and more importantly how the individuals both were and continue to be affected by them.”