Supplied photo courtesy of Dr. Lisa Brown Buchanan
Holocaust survivor Alfred Schnog stands with University of North Carolina Wilmington faculty member Dr. Lisa Brown Buchanan and his wife, Anita, following his talk at the Watson School of Education on Friday, Oct. 5.
On Oct. 5, the University of North Carolina Wilmington presented local Holocaust survivor, Alfred Schnog, at the Watson School of Education building to education majors as well as other students who chose to attend the living history lesson.
In 1931, Schnog witnessed, at a very young age, the beginning of the Holocaust and the attempted extermination of the Jewish people by Adolph Hitler.
He witnessed kristallnacht firsthand, which is also referred to as the night of broken glass, when German citizens and members of Hitler’s army shattered the glass, of the synagogues, homes and businesses of Jewish residents.
Kristallnacht resulted in the death of 91 Jewish citizens as well as the displacement of about 30,000 Jewish citizens into concentration camps. More than 1,000 synagogues were destroyed and more than 7,000 Jewish homes and businesses were destroyed.
It was after this night that Schnog and his family attempted to flee Germany to escape persecution and the concentration camps. During their attempted escape, they were stopped by the Nazis when they were about to board a train.
The Nazis said the Schnog’s parents would be allowed to cross the border, but that the children would not. In an act of heroism Schnog’s mother then pulled out a knife and said that she would kill herself as well as her own children right then if the Nazis would not let her children on board.
The family was able to get to Holland safely, and begin their eventual escape to America, where Schnog arrived when he was nine.
Schnog, a Wilmington resident and a member of Temple of Israel, educates students about the Holocaust by telling his story, which had a profound impact on many students who were in attendance when he spoke. One was graduate student Adam Beane.
“It was really interesting to hear what his family went through at the time,” Beane said. “A lot of the people who went to hear him speak hadn’t been exposed to anything like this and I think it had a big impact.”
Another student, sophomore Roberta Foster, said she was also deeply impacted by Schnog’s story. “I have heard many Holocaust survivors speak and Mr. Schnog was the first one I met who was able to escape to America during the war, which amazed me because of how difficult it was to get out of Germany. He was able to adapt to so many different cultures and languages, which is something unthinkable for children of our generation. His mother, specifically, was truly inspirational because of how hard she fought to make sure her children had a safe life.”
Foster and Beane said they both believe Schnog did a great job of educating students, many of whom were prospective teachers who will be teaching the Holocaust to their students. “We need to always teach our children about what happened at a young age,” Foster said.