Holocaust survivor confronts resurgence in anti-Semitism

Holocaust survivor talks Jewish center threats
Holocaust survivor talks Jewish center threats

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Story highlights

  • More than 80 Jewish Community Centers and schools have received bomb threats
  • For elderly survivors it's a struggle to again understand why people hate

Washington (CNN)On a frigid morning in Washington, about 200 high school students file into the auditorium at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.

On the stage, frail and in a wheelchair, sits 100-year-old Fanny Aizenberg, a Holocaust survivor. She's a featured speaker in the museum's program to have individuals who were persecuted by the Nazis share their stories of seven-plus decades ago, keeping their stories alive as long as long they can, so the world doesn't forget.
Now, anti-Semitism is back in Aizenberg's life. For elderly survivors, it's a struggle to again understand why people hate.
In recent weeks, more than 80 Jewish Community Centers and schools across the country have received bomb threats, including the community center where she lives in a Maryland suburb just outside Washington DC.
"I live at the Hebrew Hall and next door is the JCC, and they got two warnings about (a) bomb," Aizenberg told CNN in an interview after her talk. "That's next door to where I live and that's in the civilized world."
When asked how she feels about it, Fanny says quietly, "It hurts me ... It kills me. It's not good."
"America is still the biggest power in the world, so why don't we do anything about it?" Aizenberg asks.
In addressing the crowd of students, Aizenberg tells the young audience that they can ask her "anything." Her blunt talk is part of her personal commitment to keeping talking about her history even now.
"We were scared to death," she explained about everything that happened to her.
After the Nazi invasion of Belgium, Aizenberg joined the resistance working as a courier. She put her young daughter in hiding, and they were not reunited until after the war ended.
At some point, someone -- she still doesn't know who -- turned her in to the Nazis. She was sent to Auschwitz, where she found herself a victim of Nazi medical experimentation and beatings.
After she finishes recalling her experience, teenage boys and girls line up to hug her.
Diane Saltzman works with Aizenberg and other survivors at the museum, and says that she hears them talk about the current wave of anti-Semitism.
"They live in the communities where these events are occurring and in some cases, people have expressed fear and not really being able to understand why this is happening," Saltzman says. "They're determined -- determination and even some defiance that they're not going to stop, their message is really important."
Aizenberg's life is a testimony to that kind of survival even now, continuing to confront the resurgence of anti-Semitism -- any why people hate.
"I try to make people understand you cannot love each other, but you can understand others," she said. "You don't have to hate anybody."