HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR SPEAKS AT PERKIOMEN VALLEY MIDDLE SCHOOL EAST

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COLLEGEVILLE – Just a few days after Holocaust Remembrance Day, Perkiomen Valley Middle School East students had the opportunity to learn about this dark period in history from Marcel Tesse, a 78-year-old survivor who recalled what it was like being separated from his parents and witnessing various atrocities during his stays in concentrations camps in Poland. Mr. Tesse, who is a cousin of art teacher Jessica Geftic, spoke to the students following an introduction by Ms. Geftic’s mother, Lora Geftic. When he was three years old, Nazis invaded his home town of Tarnow, Poland. He was sent to a ghetto in Plaszow for two years and was hidden by his mother when other children were loaded into trucks and taken to be exterminated. He was transferred to Gross-Rosen and later Auschwitz-Birkenau. There, he was selected by Dr. Josef Mengele for experiments. But before he was subjected to any experiments, Russian soldiers arrived and saved Mr. Tesse. Amazingly, he was later reunited with both his parents after spending time in an orphanage. Mr. Tesse shared stories with the students about his time in the camps, and even at one point showed the number tattoo he has on his arm. Since he was only three at the time he was taken into camps, Mr. Tesse said he was unaware of the scope of the Holocaust. When asked what he learned from the tragedy, Mr. Tesse commented that unlike others who found it difficult to forgive Germany for its actions during the Holocaust, he learned to do so. Other students asked him how he felt after being freed from Auschwitz, and Mr. Tesse recalled being happy not to have to wonder if he would survive the next day – or even awake – after falling asleep at night. Mr. Tesse immigrated with his family to the United States following the Holocaust and currently lives in New Jersey. In addition to listening to Mr. Tesse’s story, students who attended the assembly learned about other genocides throughout the world. As one student read statistics about atrocities that have taken place in countries such as the Sudan, Cambodia, and Rwanda, other students dressed in ethnic clothing appeared on stage holding electric candles in remembrance of the many lives lost.Mr. Tesse’s visit follows on the foot heels of a lesson held earlier in April, when students watched a video about the Holocaust and then participated in lessons centered around the “ID cards” of people who died and survived the Holocaust. Holocaust Remembrance Day, or Yom Hashoah, was observed on April 28. Mr. Tesse spoke to students on May 2. Perkiomen Valley Middle School East is located at 100 Kagey Road in Collegeville.