Judith Meisel, a survivor of the Holocaust, meets Isbell Middle School students following her talk. Students at Isbell lined up to ask her questions about her experiences and to hug her and say “thank you” for sharing her life with them. Photo by Susan Branham

Judith Meisel, survivor of the Holocaust speaks

June 20, 2007
Santa Paula News
By Susan Branham Santa Paula TimesStudents at Isbell Middle School connected with history last week, when the eighth-grade class hosted Judith Meisel, a survivor of the Holocaust. Students learned the lessons of history from one who has seen humanity at its worst, and still believes in hope.The eighth-grade class at Santa Paula’s middle school viewed “Tak for Alt (Thanks for Everything) : Survival of the Human Spirit.” The film documents Judith Meisel’s life, from her childhood in Lithuania, to the Kovno ghetto, to her imprisonment in the Stutthof concentration camp and her liberation.“All the people I was imprisoned with were brave,” she told the students. “Everybody wanted to live. What I went through during the Holocaust empowered me to do something to make the world better. One person can do a lot, it all starts with one person. Thank God that I survived.”Judith Meisel lost 146 members of her family. Today she is dedicated to countering the hate which enables such destruction. She wears a button which reads, “No Place for Hate,” and works with the Anti-Defamation League teaching tolerance. “You can’t live with hate,” she said. “Hate stifles you. The ones hating other people are not living.”Students at Isbell lined up to ask her questions about her experiences and to hug her and say “thank you” for sharing her life with them. She encouraged the students to respect each others’ differences, and to take a stand against violence and bullying.Isbell teachers Elizabeth Evans and Shauna Jones were instrumental in bringing Judith Meisel to the school. The students have studied “The Diary of Anne Frank” and have worked on research projects on the Holocaust this year.
Judith Meisel was active in the U.S. Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, and greatly admired Dr. Martin Luther King. She encouraged the students to exercise their right to vote when they are older. “The United States is the best country in the world,” she told the students. “Why? It’s fixable – you can fix it. Thank God we live here in this country.” Judith’s mother was killed in the Stuttoff concentration camp. The students heard how Judith’s memories of her brought comfort. Among the death, she closed her eyes and breathed the sweet aroma of memory. She smelled the flowers, and bread baking in her childhood home. “I smelled those wonderful aromas,” she said. “I could hear my mother’s voice singing lullabies to me. I would go back to my good, happy childhood.”Judith Meisel warned the students against apathy. “Who is responsible? The world is responsible for letting this happen,” she said. “It hurts me when I hear what is happening in Darfur and Sudan today. Life is very sacred, none of us know how resilient we are until we are put to the test.”When Judith was liberated at age 16, she weighed 47 pounds, and was sick. “But I’m here today. Life is,” she said, “the most precious thing.”

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