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Holocaust speaker relates his experiences to stages of genocide

Fred Amram speaks to Hastings Middle School students about his experiences living in Nazi Germany during the Holocaust and how his experiences relate to the eight stages of genocide. Michelle Wirth / RiverTown Multimedia

Eighth graders at Hastings Middle School learned the eight stages of genocide from Holocaust survivor, Fred Amram, May 7. Amram related his experiences as a Holocaust survivor in Nazi Germany with the stages of genocide.

"It doesn't just happen overnight," Amram said.

Things happen much more slowly. It took a while before Jews started to be hauled off to concentration camps where they were murdered, he said.

The eight stages of genocide include: classification, symbolization, dehumanization, organization, polarization, preparation, extermination and denial.

Amram was born about six months after Adolf Hitler became the chancellor of Germany in 1933. As a young boy, he remembers going to a park down the street from his house. One day, they got to the park and there was one bench in the park with a mark reading "only for jews." Amram said he remembers his mother being very upset about the bench, but he didn't understand. The next time they went to the park, all the other benches had markings that read "only for Aryans." Amram said that was when he realized it wasn't right for Aryans to have all the benches in the park when he only got to have one bench. Eventually, Jews weren't allowed to go to the park at all.

"What you do matters," Amram said during his speech.

He explained that things may have turned out differently if people protested early on; however, that was not the case. Amram shared a photo of Jews being forced to clean the streets with their toothbrushes. There were people in the photograph simply surrounded the Jews watching them brush the streets. People had an opportunity to protest at that time, but they did not.

The main focus behind his speech was that genocide doesn't just happen, there are opportunities to be an upstander and stand up for what is right.

"I'm hoping that at some point you will become an upstander," Amram said.

Michelle Wirth

Michelle Wirth graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 2013 with a degree in journalism and web design. She worked as a web content editor for a trade association before coming to the Hastings Star Gazette in 2016.

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