The Granite State Room was nearly filled to capacity Tuesday evening by 6:30 p.m., half an hour before the MUB Current Issues Lecture Series program of the night was scheduled to begin. Students and community members of all ages filled the blue chairs, waiting to hear Holocaust survivor Esther Bauer, 92, speak.
Instead, Inge Auerbacher, 81, sat on the stage in her place.
Assistant Director for Student Leadership Dave Zamansky addressed the crowd first and explained that Bauer, who has spoken at UNH in years past, was ill and in the hospital.
Zamansky explained that organizers of the event had found out that Bauer had fallen ill about a week ago, but decided to go on with the lecture because of its important message.
He and student organizers of the event all wished Bauer a speedy recovery.
Auerbacher, a Holocaust survivor herself, and a retired chemist and author of six books announced that she was “thrilled that such a large group came.”
“I know I’m not Esther,” she said. “Her shoes will be hard to fill, but I can fill my own. I’m a size ten. I have big feet,” she joked.
Auerbacher’s own “I am a Star” poem was projected on the two screens behind her along with a black-and-white photograph of herself as a young girl wearing a yellow Star of David patch on her shirt.
The theme of Auerbacher’s lecture was “Don’t just stand by.”
“Had Hitler succeeded many of you wouldn’t be sitting here,” said Auerbacher. “It’s important to learn from history, but sadly these things repeat themselves,” she added and went on to talk a little about recent genocides.
Auerbacher was born in Germany in 1934. She was the last Jewish child born in Kippenheim, a little village by the Black Forest, where Jewish people lived for over 200 years prior to Kristallnacht.
“Everything changed in one day,” Auerbacher said.
Auerbacher enriched her lecture with personal photographs from her family. “This is the last picture before the terror began,” Auerbacher explained.
Along with the photographs, Auerbacher brought the original Star of David that she was forced to wear, labeling her with a single imprinted word, “Jude.”
Auerbacher ended the powerful lecture with a reading of a poem from one of her books and a question and answer session with the audience. “No question is stupid,” Auerbacher said.
“It doesn’t matter what we identify as, we’re all the same. We are all human. Simple as that,” said UNH student Mika Madhavan.
“You don’t always get to hear people’s perspectives from something that happened so long ago,” added Madhavan.
“Tough story. Now multiple that by 11 million,” Auerbacher said. “Do you forgive? No, I do not, but I do believe in reconciliation.”