Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust Hosts Event With Holocaust Survivor and Rwandan Genocide Survivor
Director of Communications
Evening of Stories of Survival and Hope,
New York, N.Y. - Touro College’s Institute on Human Rights and 3GNY, a New York City-based group for grandchildren of Holocaust Survivors, recently presented an evening with David Gewirtzman, a Holocaust Survivor, and Jacqueline Murekatete, a Rwandan Genocide Survivor, at the Center for Jewish History.
Ms. Murekatate and Mr. Gewirtzman speak widely together to groups on genocide prevention. They began speaking together after Ms. Murekatate heard Mr. Gewirtzman give a talk to high school students about his experience, and contacted him afterwards. When they appear together, both stress the need to fight intolerance and racism wherever and whenever it occurs.
At the March 18th event, Ms. Murekatate recounted how she survived the 1994 genocide in Rwanda during which her parents, her six siblings and many other relatives were killed. The genocide was perpetrated by ethnic Hutus against ethnic Tutsis, resulting in the death of 95 percent of the Tutsi population. After being discovered hiding in a Hutu’s home and narrowly escaping death several times, Ms. Murekatete was brought to an orphanage where she survived the genocide. Eventually she was brought to the United States by an uncle, where she finished high school and college.
David Gewirtzman was ten years old when the Nazis invaded his town, Losice, in Poland. He watched from a hiding spot as the Jews of the town were rounded up and sent to the well-known death camp Treblinka. Mr. Gewirtzman and his family were hidden by farmers in a nine foot hole covered by manure for three years. His younger brother was hidden alone in a haystack for two years. Like Ms. Murekatate, Mr. Gewirtzman narrowly escaped death several times before the war ended. After liberation by the Russian army, Mr. Gewirtzman went to Italy and then came to the U.S.
“The same hatred brought to an end the happy childhoods of a Jewish boy in Poland in 1939 as well as a Tutsi girl in Rwanda in 1994,” said Rebecca Tobin, assistant director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust. “Both stories remind us that we have to be ever vigilant in fighting intolerance, bigotry and racism. Unfortunately, today genocide affects children in Darfur while the State of Israel is threatened with annihilation.”
Ms. Gewirtzman and Ms. Murekatate took questions from the audience about how their experiences affected their beliefs in God, if they would consider returning to the places of their persecution and the current situations concerning the treatment of Tutsis in Rwanda and Jews in Poland.