Published online at GlobalTVEdmonton.com on March 9, 2011.
Linda Hoang, Global News: Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Holocaust survivor brings message to Edmonton students
Eva Olsson spent Wednesday morning describing her horrific struggle to survive during World War II to a gym full of students at a west end Edmonton school.
Olsson, 86, is a Holocaust survivor.
She spoke about her personal experiences during the war — experiences she says many can’t even begin to comprehend — to students at Holy Cross Elementary & Junior High School.
“On the screen you will see some pictures that are not very nice to look at it. They’re awful,” Olsson said during her presentation.
She described the inhumane conditions of the camp, speaking about prisoners being experimented on, being shot, and being starved.
Olsson recounted the horrors she endured and saw others endure during her time in a Nazi death camp in Auschwitz, not because she has to, but because she believes students need to know.
“It’s important to them. It’s important to the children,” Olsson said.
The survivor and now famous speaker, has done nearly 3,000 presentations and says children today aren’t aware about what happened during the Holocaust.
“A lot of children are not getting it from their home, they’re not. And some of them are like, ‘it happened 65 or 70 years ago,’ but it has to do with what’s happening today,” Olsson said.
Olsson says what she learned from her struggle, what she called being “bullied by Nazi bullies,” is still important today.
Her entire family was killed during the Holocaust and she didn’t get the chance to say goodbye to her mother.
“Please, no matter what the challenges are, don’t ever take your families for granted, never. You only have one,” she said.
Olsson added that she sees the word “hate” thrown around and used freely by kids today, and stressed the dangers that represents.
Holy Cross principal Dan Haley says Olsson’s words are valuable and her advice gives an important lesson for students.
“It’s all about being compassionate and caring for one another because if we’re not, she’s showing us what the other side of it is like,” he said. “It’s a really good message.”
And many students agreed with their principal.
“I think it’s extremely fortunate for her to be here to talk about all the hate. It’s extremely touching and sad and yet remarkable what she had to go through,” said student Tony Savchuk.
“Sometimes I say I hate homework or something or even friends and stuff,” said student Beth Scoffield.
“I don’t realize true hatred like what she was saying about the Nazis… it just makes me realize I shouldn’t throw the word around.”
Olsson says inspiring any change is well worth her time, and she’ll continue to spread her message.
Olsson has spoken to more than a million people. Her main focus is on bullying, hatred and the importance of standing up against racism, bigotry and intolerance.
With files from Shane Jones