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In April 2015, Mr. Eisen was a witness at the trial of Oskar Gröning, the former Nazi bookkeeper charged with causing 300,000 deaths.
November 17, 2017
Courage and Inspiration
"There is no freedom without responsibility," reflected Max Eisen, a Holocaust survivor who spoke to Senior and Middle School students during our Holocaust Education Week Assembly.

Mr. Eisen described his experience growing up in Czechoslovakia, the rise of Nazi power and being forced into slave labour at 15-years-old in Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp—where he saw his family for the final time.

“The last thing my father told me,” he recalled, “was, if you live, tell the world what's happening here.” Mr. Eisen told students his father, mother, sister and uncle were killed in the Holocaust and that he owes his survival to chance, the title of his memoir By Chance Alone.

In April 2015, Mr. Eisen was a witness at the trial of Oskar Gröning, the former Nazi bookkeeper charged with causing 300,000 deaths. While at the trial in Luneberg, Germany, Mr. Eisen met Jordana Lebowitz, a granddaughter of Holocaust survivors.

Branksome was pleased to host Ms Lebowitz, who is dedicated to Holocaust education and remembrance, to speak to students and employees about her experience attending the Nazi War Criminal Trial. Ms Lebowitz documented the trial in her book To Look a Nazi in the Eye.

In a week of presentations under the theme “Stories of Courage and Inspiration,” we were also inspired by conversations with Michelle Poler, the founder of the “Hello Fears” movement and creator of “100 Days Without Fear.” Ms Poler spoke to a packed student assembly about facing her fears, and later, to guests at the Branksome Hall Parents’ Association annual luncheon.

While answering student questions during assembly, Ms Poler discussed why she grew up with so many fears. She remarked that it began with her grandfather, who had been in a concentration camp and was a Holocaust survivor. Even though her grandfather was able to escape, her family still carried memories of fear and survival, and consequently lived life with great caution.

Today, Ms Poler is an internet sensation, inspiring thousands of people around the world to get out of their comfort zones with her mantra that fear is not an obstacle, it’s an opportunity. After all, Ms Poler believes the enemy of success is comfort, not failure.

Our Branksome week of “Stories of Courage and Inspiration” concluded with a Remembrance Day Assembly focused on both the First Nations and Branksome’s involvement in WW I and II. It was led by the Prefects and Grade 12 students who lit candles, read poetry and ended with a moving performance of the "Last Post" and "Reveille."

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