Last week, university pathway students at ILAC had the unique privilege of meeting bestselling author and Holocaust survivor, Max Eisen. At 89 years old, Eisen travels around the world speaking with young people about the power of resilience, freedom of speech and education.
“Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice,” Eisen told ILAC students. “The most important thing is to look ahead and not back, have a plan and don’t rely on destiny.”
When Eisen was only 15 years old, he and his family were taken by force from their home in Hungary to a Nazi concentration camp in occupied Poland. As a prisoner at Auschwitz-Birkenau, he endured slave labour, extreme malnutrition and exposure to severe weather. On May 6, 1945, at the end of World War II, Eisen was finally liberated from the camp. He was the only member of his large Jewish family to survive the Holocaust.
In 2016, Eisen published his story in a book called By Chance Alone: A Remarkable True Story of Courage and Survival at Auschwitz. His memoir describes the back-breaking work in the camp, the painful aftermath of liberation and his long journey of physical and psychological healing. However, the book also offers a message of hope and inspiration as Eisen creates a new life for himself in Canada.
Students, teachers and staff who attended the event were deeply moved by the meeting with Eisen. Many admitted they only knew of the Holocaust from Hollywood movies and felt it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet Eisen and hear his story in person.
“His story is truly inspirational in reminding us to never be bystanders for radical ideologies,” said Diana Mokute, Manager of Public-Private Partnerships & Business Development at ILAC and the organizer of the event. “After all the horrific events and the loss of his family, Mr. Eisen shows the strength of survival skills and a tremendous gratitude for life. His great storytelling skills helped us to connect and empathize with him and he is a remarkable guest speaker.”
Eisen has dedicated the last 30 years of his life to educating youth about the Holocaust and telling his story so that it never happens again. He believes it is important for people to hear about the war “straight from the horse’s mouth” because it can be difficult to grasp the enormity of it.
“History repeats itself if you don’t talk about it,” Eisen reminded ILAC students. “And that’s what education is all about.”
Over 6 million Jews were killed by the Nazis during the Holocaust. Other persecuted groups included Roma, Poles, Soviet citizens and soldiers, political opponents, priests, homosexuals and people with mental illnesses or disabilities, resulting in up to 17 million deaths overall.
Did you know? ILAC regularly offers its students and employees additional opportunities for learning including guest speakers, professional development and mentorship. Contact us if you are interested in sharing your story and skills with international students and young professionals from around the world.