In 2005, the United Nations designated Jan. 27 as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. On that date in 1945, the extermination camp known as Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated, and pictures of Nazi crimes against humanity were disseminated around the world. During World War II, the Nazis and their collaborators murdered more than six million Jews, and their atrocities led to the deaths of millions of other victims. Of the six million Jews killed,1.5 million were children.
Dr. Alfred Münzer (Muenzer) spoke at Old Dominion University at an Institute for Jewish Studies and Interfaith Understanding event in October 2019. Dr. Münzer is a retired medical doctor who spent much of his professional career as director of pulmonary medicine at Washington Adventist Hospital in Maryland. He is also a Holocaust survivor. Born to a Jewish family in the Netherlands during the war in 1941, he was hidden with an Indonesian family and their Muslim nanny and survived the Nazi genocide. His two older sisters, however, did not survive. Eva and Leah Muenzer were hidden with a different family but eventually were discovered at the ages of 8 and 6 and subsequently deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where they were gassed on arrival.
After Dr. Münzer spoke at ODU, a man in the audience approached him with a question that led Münzer to write a letter to the man's young daughter, Olivia. The letter details what happened to Eva and Leah, and how he was saved. He implores Olivia to consider what happens when hate dominates one's thinking and encourages her to always be respectful of people of all backgrounds, religions and identities.
The "Letter to Olivia" is housed on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's website and worth serious reflection today during a period of elevated racism, antisemitism and xenophobia in our own society. On International Holocaust Remembrance Day, we honor the precious memory of Eva and Leah along with the 6 million Jews killed as a result of Nazi genocide.
Pictures housed on USHMM website: https://www.ushmm.org/remember/holocaust-survivors/volunteers/alfred-muenzer
Annette Finley-Croswhite is a history professor in the College of Arts and Letters. The Holocaust is one of her areas of expertise.