Holocaust survivor shares his story

At age 15, Zev Harel was liberated from a concentration camp during the Holocaust. At age 84, Harel was able to stand in front of an audience in the Bryan Jr. Auditorium at Guilford College to share his story.

To honor YomHaShoah, or Holocaust Memorial Day, Guilford College Hillel hosted speaker Zev Harel, a Holocaust survivor and Greensboro resident.

“In life, there are things you want to do and things you have to do,” Harel said. “Being a survivor of that experience, I have to place emphasis on legacies of that experience, and I must share with you the evil occurrences.”

Junior Josh Weil, a member of Hillel, introduced the idea of having a guest speaker for Holocaust Memorial Day, so he contacted members of the Jewish Federation of Greensboro to get in touch with Harel.

“In organizing this event, I wanted to bring education to people that are misguided by the Holocaust, as well as try to bring about sympathy and understanding,” Weil said. “One of the most important things is to remember the victims, and to put aside politics in order to respect them.”

With an unassuming and gentle presence, Harel spoke about endearing childhood memories and harrowing life tragedies. His stories wove a picture that no history textbook could convey.

“The memory of arriving in Auschwitz is both in my head and my heart,” Harel said. “It was a beautiful night. The son of the Rabbi from our city was praying.”

Harel recited the prayer in Hebrew before translating it for the audience:

“God, evil forces enter your holy kingdom. How long will you let this continue?”

As a retired professor, Harel did not pass up the opportunity to encourage and educate the minds of young people. Despite the sadness and horror of his experiences, he spoke of the importance of gratitude and hard work.

“Do all that you can for any good you can do,” he said. “Do anything you can do to make any dent you can to reduce anti-Semitism and any racial intolerance. Make anything you are a part of better.”

Harel’s speech was greeted with an attentive audience and ended with a standing ovation.

Many members of Hillel hope that commemorating Holocaust Memorial Day will be an annual observance at Guilford.

“I’m grateful that everyone came out tonight, even with their busy schedules,” said sophomore Amanda Libby, vice president of Hillel. “This is an event where you don’t have to be Jewish, but where people can come together to honor the people that died.”