Having experienced immense hate and fear, Max Eisen a Holocaust survivor, wants everyone to remember our history and not be a bystander in situations led by terror.
Eisen, 90, spoke at Centennial College’s Holocaust Education Week’s event this past Tuesday about his experience in Auschwitz.
“Without history, there is no memory, and without memory there is no future,” Eisen said to the audience at the Progress Campus of Centennial College.
Eisen has been speaking for the Holocaust Centre for over 30 years, and he also travels across Canada to educate younger generations about the horror of the Holocaust. He is also the author of By Chance Alone, which won the 2019 Canada Reads.
Born in Moldava, Czechoslovakia in 1929, Eisen grew up in the small town where generations of his family had lived. In 1944, Eisen and his family were taken from their home and deported to Auschwitz, where he then lost most of his family members.
“I went to look for my father and uncle and they were not there. There was a quarantine area inside Auschwitz 1… Now I understand why they were kept there,” Eisen said. “I was yelling my father’s and uncle’s names. I managed to see them, and they managed to see me, and we had a chance to say goodbye. My father gave me a blessing, and he told me that if I managed to survive, I would have to tell the world what happened.”
During the Second World War, Eisen was liberated by American soldiers of the 761st Tank Battalion: Black Panthers, in 1945. He immigrated to Quebec City in 1949, and subsequently moved to Toronto, where he has been living since.
After experiencing such horror, Eisen followed his father’s last wish and has been speaking about his experience for the past 31 years.
“We need to talk about what happened. We need to be creating awareness, if we don’t do anything you know – no one else will do it,” said Gosha Trzaski, the organizer for Centennial College’s Holocaust Education Week. This year is the 17th year for this event, and each year they try to bring in a keynote speaker in hopes of abolishing such hatred in the future.
“I believe some people don’t think about it. They don’t analyze it, they just think it’s in the past because it’s history. But look at how many injustices are happening, even in Toronto, in Canada,” Trzaski said.
In the wake of a hate crime against Eisen in Toronto, he emphasizes the importance of creating awareness and to never forget.
In July 2018, Eisen’s face was on a poster beside a synagogue in Toronto, and the poster was then defaced with the word “Achtung”. Eisen said this word was used many times to insert fear and dominance while he was in Auschwitz. He said he often heard it over the speakers in the camp in the middle of the night.
“You need to stand up, you must never be a bystander, you need to say ‘We will not allow you to do this, you cannot do this, not in our school, not in our city, not in our country’,” he said. “We all need to be concerned if we want to live in a better world.”