On Monday morning, the Middle School had a very special visitor. History teacher Gigi Bizar had invited Eva Perlman, a Holocaust survivor Ms. Bizar met during her 2017 March of the Living trip, to campus to speak to Westridge students.
Bizar's classes were in the midst of their Holocaust and Human Behavior Unit, in which students traced the events leading up to the Holocaust, grappling with the decisions people made during that time period. On inviting Perlman to present to the Middle School, Bizar said, "Eva has the distinct ability to connect with people, to share common humanity. She sees life as a miracle to be lived. I am so honored to know her and am blessed to have had the opportunity to bring her to come and speak to our Middle School students. We will never forget."
Perlman gave a powerful account of her family's survival and resiliency during World War II. She described how she and her parents and siblings fled their home in Germany to France, where they remained in hiding from the Nazis. Their hiding place, "The Yellow House," (so named by Perlman and her siblings because of the house's yellow paint) was only a few miles away from Lyon, a French town where Nazis were transporting Jews to Auschwitz.
When recounting her family history, Perlman recalled her mother's strength in the face of adversity. Perlman's mother had left her home while pregnant, bringing with her her own mother (Perlman's grandmother) and the family's only valuables - silver candlesticks and tableware. Perlman also included in her presentation the names of several "righteous Gentiles" who risked their lives to save her and her family from the ongoing genocide, and she dedicated her story to these landlords, strangers, and friends. "Without whom," Perlman said, "I would not be here today."
After her presentation, students had the opportunity to ask questions, and when one student asked why she hadn't lost hope in all that time, Perlman replied that she had to keep going because survival was her only option. "God gives us a choice," said Perlman. "We say yes, or we say no, that's what I believe."
Another student, a 7th grader, asked Perlman if her mother's strength was the most beautiful thing she'd witnessed during the war. Perlman answered, "I don't remember seeing anything beautiful during the war. We were just trying to survive. But," she added, looking out at the students, "I see many beautiful things here."