2004-05-14 / Community

Holocaust Survivor Visits Far Rockaway High School

By Michael Weinberg

Holocaust Survivor Visits Far Rockaway High School

By Michael Weinberg

Students of Far Rockaway High School’s ISS Department welcomed speaker David Burian, a Holocaust survivor of the infamous Auschwitz death camp, on May 5. Burian, a Long Beach resident, recalled his being liberated by African American soldiers of a recon patrol.

"These soldiers are what made me want to come to America," said Burian. "These soldiers gave us their food, their jackets, the clothing off their own backs. I spoke no English. The knew we were all in need."

Burian was clear in his opening statements: "I am no hero. I stand before you today as a victim."

Speaking to an audience of ninth to twelfth graders, Burian touched on topics such as accountability, genocide, hunger, death and torture.

Student Natalie Francisco asked: "What will be the title of your book?" Burian answered with his own question: "Any good ideas?"

Student Prestley Boyd was interested in Burian’s arrival in the United States with only six dollars in hand. Boyd asked, "What was your first job here." Burian explained that he worked in a garment factory where they made brassieres.

"I felt as if I was the richest man alive with my first paycheck," said Burian. "Twelve dollars!"

Teachers and staff, as well, were enlightened and curious about Burian’s experiences during The Holocaust. Barbara Brocchini, a veteran reading teacher, whose mother was a Holocaust survivor and who father fled Europe, asked to see the tattoo the Nazis inked on Burian’s arm. He obliged, and explained that the Nazis were extremely organized in the formation of the death and slave labor camps.

Students were exposed to the harsh reality of recent history and the persecution of peoples for any reason deemed by those with power. Students in several ISS classes have pursued the topic of The Holocaust, reading Elie Wiesel’s "Night," and viewing movies such as "The Pianist," "American History X," "Out of the Ashes," and "Saving Private Ryan."

Students will be closing the unit with a greater understanding of the liberation of the death camps, the role of the United States in World War II, and a trip to the Intrepid Museum of NYC.

Senior Victor Torres bravely questioned Burian’s belief and faith in God. Burian asked back: "Do I have any choice but to believe?" Through Burians experiences, student questions and interaction The Holocaust workshop was a success in youth-adult interaction, learning of history, and the understanding of empathy for another’s experiences.

A special thank you to the students of Far Rockaway for the maturity and interest displayed by most and to Burian for his time and efforts and the opportunity to hear one of many millions of stories of importance beyond words.

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