Jewish Holocaust Survivor Shares Her Story with Alto High School Students
In September, Alto International School hosted Dr. Eva Ray, a Jewish holocaust survivor, scientist, and family member of an Alto student. Dr. Ray grew up in Europe during World War II and fled with her mother and sister to the United States in 1941.
As all Alto students learn about Nazi Germany, the causes that led to World War II and the rise of the anti-semitic ideals in Germany and Europe, Dr. Ray’s gripping personal story provided a first-hand perspective of what it meant to be a member of a Jewish family in the 1940s.
Dr. Ray’s story started with her as an eight-year-old girl living in Yugoslavia at the time of the German invasion of the country. Sensing the severity of the situation, her father applied for an American visa for himself in the hope that he could later bring the rest of his family to the United States. Dr. Ray’s father died before reaching America, but her mother continued to fight for United States visas. In the process, Dr. Ray, her mother, and her four-year-old sister had to stay in Berlin, Germany, for an extended time, possibly the most dangerous places for them to be in the 1940s. Dr. Ray recalled her mother even meeting with Heinrich Himmler, commander of the SS, in order to receive the necessary visas to leave Europe. As a child, she did not know that Himmler was a driving force behind the Nazi concentration camps and the elimination of so many Jewish lives during the Nazi regime.
Ultimately, Dr. Ray’s family traveled to Portugal by train, where after some complications, they were able to get onto a cargo boat to take them to the United States. Upon setting their eyes on the Statue of Liberty and eating a proper meal after five weeks aboard a ship that was only prepared for a four-day trip, the family finally made it to safety. Dr. Ray later found out that the cargo boat was the last from Europe carrying refugees to ever sail to America at the time. Through a combination of her parent’s planning and persistence, and a tremendous amount of luck, Dr. Ray and her family were able to escape Nazi Germany.
Stories like these are vital for students to hear, so they connect their learning with real-life stories. Dr. Ray’s personal story needs to be heard, especially today when we see a rise in right-wing nationalist parties in Europe and elsewhere. Dr. Ray emphasized that it is essential to stay involved, to be educated about current events and that one should never forget to stay positive and always to try to make the best out of a given situation.
Niklas Wittig, Junior Student (Class of 2021)