Holocaust survivor shares wisdom with teens
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Holocaust survivor shares wisdom with teens

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  • Emily S. Groeber/ Former Red Mountain High School English teacher

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What can the few remaining Holocaust survivors teach us before they are gone? Red Mountain High students found out from Helen Handler.

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Helen Handler is the subject of “The Risk of Sorrow,” a new book based on conversations with biographer Valerie Foster, retired Red Mountain High English teacher. Photo by Mikayla Pyle, a journalistic writing student in Jan Saquella’s Roar magazine publication class

More than 50 students in Rebecca Suchomel’s English classes at Red Mountain High were captivated by an increasingly rare opportunity.

They met a Holocaust survivor.

Helen Handler’s visit topped off lessons on Eli Weisel’s “Night” and Viktor Frankel’s “Man’s Search for Meaning.”

Handler shared her experiences in Auschwitz and other death camps, her liberation and her new life in Europe and America.

“I am speaking because there are six million who are silent,” the 85-year-old said softly. “God did not make a mistake in saving me.”

Students learned what it was like to be a 15-year-old Hungarian Jewish girl caught up in the atrocities of World War II.

They also learned about Handler’s commitment to keep telling her story so it won’t happen again.

She spoke of her childhood before she was forced onto the cattle car that took her and her family to Auschwitz.

Four days after their arrival, they walked through Josef Mengele’s selection line. That was the last time Handler saw her family.

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Helen Handler, a Holocaust survivor, cries in a railroad car used to take people to concentration camps that is on display at the Holocaust & Tolerance Museum in Chandler, Ariz.. Photo courtesy the Associated Press.

She spoke of the lessons we all need to remember from the horrors of the Holocaust, “The person sitting next to you is your brother, your sister. Don’t ever let anyone teach you that they are less of a person because they are different from you.”

Valerie Foster, Handler’s biographer (and a retired Red Mountain founding faculty member), facilitated a question and answer session following the presentation. Foster’s book “The Risk of Sorrow: Conversations with Holocaust Survivor, Helen Handler” was recently published by Albion-Andalus Books and is available on Amazon.com.

Matt Kelley, television and technology teacher, his students and Art Gallardo, auditorium stage manager, broadcast and recorded Handler’s visit for other teachers to share with additional students, live or on demand.

Handler lingered when the lights and the camera were turned off. She stayed to meet students who wanted to speak to her personally. From the small to the tall, teens lined up to thank her, take a photo with her or give her a hug.