Holocaust survivor, IDF veteran, and motivational speaker Sami Steigmann was selected as the keynote speaker for the Holocaust Education Symposium, held June 24-27 in Marietta. While in Atlanta, he also spoke to a full crowd in the sanctuary of Chabad of North Fulton under the auspices of the Atlanta Israel Coalition.
Born in Czernovitz, Bukovina, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Steigmann was interred in 1944 with his parents at Mogilev-Podolsky labor camp in an area called Transnistria. Cold and hungry most of the time, Steigmann was subjected to Nazi medical experimentation at the camp but has no recollection of the specifics since he was so young at the time. He has continued to feel the side effects of these experiments and continues to suffer from back, neck and head pain as a result.
Liberated by the Red Army in 1944, he and his family were relocated by the Romanians. He grew up in Transylvania, in a small town called Reghin, where he did not know the language. In 1961, he and his family immigrated to Israel, where he served in the Israeli Air Force. In 1968, without knowing the language and with no money, Sami came to the United States and became an accountant. He lived in Milwaukee for many years before moving back to Israel in 1983. He currently resides in New York City and travels throughout the country as a motivational speaker.
During his presentation to the group of educators, Steigmann shared many of his thoughts and opinions, as well as the wisdom he has gained during his 84 years of life:
• All tragedies in the world started with words and bullying. Be extra careful with the words you choose. They can elevate or incite others.
• Never be a bystander. The greatest tragedy in human history, the Holocaust, and all the genocides, happened because the world stood by and did nothing.
• Be an upstander, a person who speaks or acts in support of an individual or cause. Be willing to intervene on behalf of a person being attacked or bullied.
• According to a recent study among Gen Z and millennials, almost two-thirds of young American adults, aged 18-39, do not know that six million Jews were killed during the Holocaust. In addition, almost half (48 percent) could not name a single concentration camp or ghetto established during World War II.
• Today, there are 22 states that mandate Holocaust/genocide classes, but the number is meaningless because most of these classes are electives. Holocaust and genocide classes should have standardized information and be mandatory for all students.
• “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it” has been attributed to Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s chief propagandist. We must be vigilant to correct any lies we hear today before a tragedy happens anywhere.
• Be yourself and be proud of your heritage. Copies are never as good as the original!
• In light of recent events, we, as Jews, should organize “No Fear” rallies in cities throughout the country. Encourage groups we support to participate and be sure the media is there to cover. Other groups have had these rallies and receive excellent coverage. We, as Jews, need to be bolder.
• Be a strong person in character. Elevate people instead of putting them down.
• Positive thinking = positive words = positive attitude = positive actions = positive experiences.
- Debbie Diamond
- Holocaust Survivor
- IDF veteran
- motivational speaker Sami Steigmann
- Holocaust Education Symposium
- Chabad of North Fulton
- Atlanta Israel Coalition
- Austro-Hungarian Empire
- Mogilev-Podolsky labor camp
- Israeli Air Force
- Gen Z and millennials
- World War II
- Joseph Goebbels