Author, Holocaust survivor holds Q&A for seniors

Author, Holocaust survivor holds Q&A for seniors

Holocaust survivor Leo Bretholz smiles as he signs books and speaks with senior AP English students. Seniors read Bretholz’s memoir and were able to ask about his experiences during the visit.

On April 27, author and Holocaust survivor Leo Bretholz visited JC to share his experiences in Nazi-occupied Europe with senior AP English students.

According to Bretholz, who escaped the Nazis seven times in nearly seven years, sharing his story is an important part of preserving the past.

“I think that it is important for young people to have that knowledge because they will take it into the future,” Bretholz said. “These students are the future.”

Senior August Pons appreciated Bretholz’s message to the class. “If you weren’t there, you really missed out,” Pons said.

English Department Chair Susan Fisher began organizing the visit in early February after finding out that Bretholz would be unable to attend JC’s Holocaust Remembrance Day with the other survivors.

“When I found out that Mr. Bretholz wouldn’t be coming to speak with our other Holocaust survivors, I was sorely disappointed.  I knew he was a great speaker with a fascinating story and a huge amount of charisma.  I wanted to do something special for my students who had diligently read and absorbed his memoir,” Fisher said.

Fisher contacted Bretholz through the Baltimore Jewish Council, and he “graciously agreed to a special trip to visit,” Fisher said.

As part of the class’s Holocaust unit, Fisher required her AP English students to compile questions for Bretholz while reading his memoir “Leap into Darkness.”

On Wednesday, Bretholz answered those questions and shared additional elements of his story, including letters, photographs, and mementos from his experiences.

“[Bretholz] let us do some of the talking, allowing us to ask questions, which I thought was just as effective as when the other Holocaust speakers came and shared their stories,” senior Sydnie Comitz said.

“I felt once again exposed to history in a special way.  His book and his presence were simply gifts to us.  How humbling to know of the life he’s lived,’” Fisher said.

Bretholz, who is now 90 years old, began telling his story publicly in 1962.

“I started because I found out in 1962 what had happened to my mother and sisters. They were murdered. My wife encouraged me to tell my story because I have to tell it for those who are no longer with us to honor their memory,” Bretholz said.

Due to his age, Bretholz now does fewer speaking engagements, but he hopes that his story will continue to make an impact.

“I hope that I made an impression that’s strong enough for the students to take it with them and make changes,” Bretholz said.

Additional reporting by Jenny Hottle.

Joey Hoff is the Editor in Chief for “The Patriot” and jcpatriot.com.