Stewart Manor School sixth-graders in Samantha DeFalco’s and Matthew Dideriksen’s classes met Holocaust survivor Irving Roth on Dec. 13.
During their library research periods, the students had been reading “Bondi’s Brother,” an autobiography penned by Roth. The story recounts Roth’s and his family’s experience in Slovakia, before and after Germany occupied the country in 1938. The family eventually fled to Hungary to escape persecution, but Roth and his brother were subsequently captured and taken to the Auschwitz concentration camp.
During the school visit, Roth recounted his life and the things he held dear as a child, including going to school, playing
soccer and spending time with friends. He then explained how his life changed when the Nazis took over his country. Suddenly, Jews were no longer allowed to attend school and were banned from public places. They also were unable to own businesses, and had to forfeit any jewelry or other luxuries they owned. Roth also described how his friends, as well as his father’s friends, turned on them because they were Jewish.
After the family fled for Hungary, they were safe for a short time before being picked up by the police. Along with thousands of others, they were transported from Hungary to Poland in vastly overcrowded cattle cars, with no food or sanitation. After reaching the concentration camp, Roth watched as his brother, his grandparents, his aunt and his cousin were taken away. They were all murdered. Roth’s head was shaved, he was stripped of all his clothing and a number was tattooed on his arm. He was told he was no longer a person, just a number. He worked long hours, receiving little or no food. American soldiers ultimately freed him in 1945.
After telling about his life during the Nazi occupation, Roth answered questions about his book and his life. He encouraged students to stand up to bullies and urged them to do something whenever they see injustice in the world, even if it’s
far from their homes. He also asked that they share his story with their children, so no one