Leo Silberman was 14 years old when Nazis invaded his hometown of Rymanow, Poland, in 1939. After two years of occupation and forced labor, the Jews were brought to the town square and separated by age and gender.
Some were sent to labor camps.
Most were sent to their deaths.
Barbara Turkeltaub was 6 when bombs began striking a playground where she was playing soccer with neighborhood children in her hometown of Vilnius, Lithuania.
Elie Wiesel was 15 when he and his family were deported to Auschwitz, where his mother and younger sister died. He and his father subsequently were sent to Buchenwald, where his father died.
The three Holocaust survivors will share their stories during three Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, commemorations. All count family members among the 11 million people who were killed by the Nazis — 6 million Jews and a million children — during World War II.
Wiesel, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and Boston University professor, will speak during the second Kent State University Presidential Speaker series at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Memorial Athletic and Convocation Center on the Kent campus.
Turkeltaub, of Canton, will speak during the city of Akron’s 27th annual Holocaust Commemoration, noon Tuesday at the main branch of the Akron-Summit County Public Library, 60 S. High St. in downtown Akron. The program will begin at 11:30 a.m. with the 25th annual Holocaust Arts & Writing Awards ceremony.
During the past 25 years, nearly 10,000 students, 100 teachers and 65 schools have participated in the arts and writing contest. First-place students and their teachers are awarded a paid trip to the nation’s capital to visit the U.S. Holocaust Museum and other historic sites. Winning work is on display at the main library through April 26 and can be seen at http://akronohio.gov/holocaust2/.
Silberman, of Cleveland, will share his story at 7 p.m. Sunday at Shaw Jewish Community Center, 750 White Pond Drive, Akron. The center’s commemoration will include a memorial service and candle lighting.
The last time Silberman saw his parents, two brothers, two sisters and extended family members was in 1941, when the Nazis assembled the Jews in town square and sent most of them to their deaths. From that time until 1945, he survived several slave labor camps and concentration camps, including Plaszow, Buchenwald and Theresienstadt.
After he was freed, Silberman was sent to a camp for displaced people in Germany, where he met his future wife, Paula. The small Jewish community in Council Bluffs, Iowa, sponsored Silberman, making it possible for him to come to America in 1949. He stocked shelves in a grocery store and worked on the night shift in a factory in the Iowa town before moving in 1951 to Cleveland, where Paula had settled with her family.
After the couple was married, Silberman learned the electrical trade and started his own company. He and his wife have three children, six grandchildren and one great-grandchild. He currently serves as president of Kol Israel Foundation, the Holocaust survivors’ organization in Cleveland, and is a board member of the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage and the Jewish Family Service Association.
Like Silberman, Turkeltaub continues to share her story to help younger generations stay vigilant against attitudes that could lead to another Holocaust.
After the Nazis invaded Lithuania in 1941, Turkeltaub and her family were herded with other Jews into Vilna, a barbed-wire ghetto. She and her younger sister were smuggled by their parents to live with a farmer and his family, and subsequently were taken to safety by a Catholic priest to a Benedictine convent. The Nazis killed her father and two older sisters.
After the war, Turkeltaub, her younger sister and a younger brother (born in the ghetto) were reunited. They immigrated to Israel, where Turkeltaub learned nursing in the Israeli army. She met and married Joseph Turkeltaub, a survivor of numerous slave labor and death camps. The Turkeltaubs came to the United States and settled in Canton.
Turkeltaub works part time, teaching Hebrew to students at Beit Ha’am religious school in Canton. She has two grown children and three grandsons.
Wiesel, who works as an advocate for oppressed people, is also an author. His experience of the Holocaust has motivated him to defend human rights and promote peace throughout the world.
After the war, Wiesel — born in Sighet, Transylvania in 1928 — studied in Paris and later became a journalist. He authored the memoir Night, which has been translated into more than 30 languages.
President Jimmy Carter appointed him in 1978 as chairman of the President’s Commission on the Holocaust. Two years later, Weisel became the founding chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council. He currently serves as president of The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, which he established with his wife to combat indifference, intolerance and injustice.
A limited number of preferred seating tickets to hear Wiesel speak can be purchased at www.kent.edu/ElieWiesel for $50 each. General admission seats are $20.
There is no admission fee for the events featuring Turkeltaub or Silberman.
Colette Jenkins can be reached at 330-996-3731 or firstname.lastname@example.org.