Students at Smith-Cotton High School got a rare opportunity Thursday, Feb. 20 to hear about the hardships faced by Holocaust survivors and their families.
Joyce Hess gave a special presentation in the Heckart Performing Arts Center to students in the American History and German courses at the high school. Hess’ mother, Sonia Golad, was in her early teens at the start of the Holocaust, only 14 years old when her family was marched into the ghetto of Wilna, Poland.
During the presentation, Hess detailed her mother’s journey from Wilna through several work camps, to Stutthof concentration camp, where she was separated from her family, and Bergen-Belsen, where she was eventually liberated. From Bergen-Belsen, Golad’s journey through Europe to the United States was documented. Through her story, the horrific realities of the Holocaust, as well as the rebuilding of so many lives afterwards, have been brought to the minds and memories of a new generation.
Not only was the story of Golad’s survival told, but also the story of her life after the war. Students did not only hear about Sonia Golad, the survivor, but also about Sonia Golad, the wife and mother, the American citizen and the volunteer. Golad did not simply survive, but she also became an invaluable member of her community, and one of the few survivors to take her story into the schools to continue the memory of the Holocaust to a new generation, a work that is continued now by her daughter.
Hess ended her message by re-emphasizing the message of both her and her mother’s work, quoting the conclusion of many of her mother’s speeches:
“My message today is tolerance. You do not have to love everyone, but you must not hate.” Photo courtesy Kylar McNeal.
Editor’s note: S-C’s Theater Department is in final preparations for its production of “The Diary of Anne Frank.”