Surviving the Nazis

Posted by on September 17, 2013 in Newslines | 0 comments

A lecture with Holocaust survivor Stanley Ronnell

Six million Jews were killed in World War II, and to survive the genocide was nothing less than a miracle, as Stanley Ronnell made clear when he spoke at UB about his childhood.

Ronnell’s visit was sponsored by the Student Government Association (SGA) and he used the opportunity to urge those in attendance to share his extraordinary story. “After we’re gone,” he asked, “who will tell these stories? Don’t be a bystander.”

That message resonated with student Taikan Kanai. “I’ve read Diary of Anne Frank and studied the Holocaust in class, but readings have limitations. It’s better to hear from the people who’ve experienced it first-hand,” Kanai said after the talk. “He’s giving us information so we can prevent it from happening again. We shouldn’t forget.”

Born in Krakow, Poland, Ronnell was the only child of two working parents. His father was a banker, his mother was a pharmacist, and their tranquil, middleclass life was violently uprooted when the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939. Ronnell was five.

He would not have many days with his father, who was soon arrested by the Nazis and sent to Auschwitz, where he perished. Surviving was marginally easier for Ronnell’s mother, thanks to her blonde hair and fair complexion, which allowed her to pass as a German. But shielding Ronnell — whose dark eyes and hair marked him as a Jew — was problematic. Mother and son escaped with help from the Polish underground.

After the war, Ronnell and his mother moved to the United States. Ronnell earned degrees in engineering and business at the City College of New York, but one of his children is a University of Bridgeport graduate, he said.

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