Holocaust survivor finds new calling after ’28 days in hell’

When speaking to school-aged children, Eva Olsson is often asked about the Holocaust. “Do you hate the Germans?” they ask.

She always explains that not all Germans were Nazis. Furthermore, she says the word hate has vanished from her vocabulary.

“What I teach the message to children is to eliminate the word hate. And I tell them, ‘What you are going to see on the screen is done by hate, not by love,'” Olsson said.

Olsson, 84, has worked as an inspirational speaker for over 13 years. She talks to children and adults – using her own experiences to convey that hatred has detrimental effects on humanity.

However, it wasn’t until recently, when she went back to Europe and confronted her worst memories, that this became her calling. In 1944, when she was 19, all of her family members, except her sister, were murdered in the Holocaust.

More than 60 years after the Holocaust, Olsson travelled with filmmaker Don Gray, his wife Yvonne and film editor Ron Jakes to Hungary, Romania, Poland and Germany to make the film “Stronger Than Fire,” a documentary about her journey.

“I went through a change in my life. When I came back I had a feeling I wasn’t doing enough on this mission,” Olsson said, “So it had to become a calling. Something is calling me there; I have to do more and more and more.”

Don Gray noted the change he saw in Olsson. For a while, he feared that the extremely wearisome trip would stop her from going back to work. However, it proved quite the contrary.

“The trip had changed her in that way that she was even more committed than before…and I sensed that her speech got even better,” Gray said. “She was more eloquent, more forceful and more committed when she got back than before she left.”

Olsson said the pilgrimage back to Europe was “28 days of hell;” yet she remains extremely thankful and proud.

“It’s quite an achievement … I am 84 now,” Olsson said. “I am very proud … I ask myself many times ‘am I crazy?’ It’s such a huge undertaking, very expensive … I have a new book which is also from the journey but then this will be the legacy that I will leave behind.”

For over 60 years Olsson avoided the horrors of her homeland and the past. Today she appears to make those memories instructive to others.

“I would hope (the film) affects them in a positive way,” she said, “because it really took a lot of courage at my age to go over there again.”

Filed by Alexandra Kazia

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Posted: Apr 8 2009 9:29 am
Filed under: Arts & Life