Holocaust survivor Bernd Simon enlightens sophomores

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Holocaust survivor Bernd Simon enlightens sophomores

Credit: Kazu Koba/The Foothill Dragon Press

Credit: Kazu Koba/The Foothill Dragon Press

Credit: Kazu Koba/The Foothill Dragon Press

Credit: Kazu Koba/The Foothill Dragon Press

Ela Yasa

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Holocaust surviver and “Nazi Hunter” Bernd Simon, now 94-years-old, made his 12th annual trip to Foothill this past Tuesday to share his story, spread awareness, and communicate his message to the Sophomore class.

The presentation was conducted at FIRE and lunch for the sophomores to hear about Simon’s experience of being in a concentration camp, escaping Nazi Germany, and joining the U.S. army. 

Honors World History teacher Cherie Eulau first discovered Simon when she saw a flyer for the program “Seasons,” and she believed that he would be an important addition to the sophomores’ curriculum. 

“You want students to be able to connect with history in a personal way, and seeing someone who experienced it brings it more to life,” Eulau said. “The students have someone that they can picture rather than just seeing Schindler’s list or reading it; they can shake his hand, they can take a picture with him, and it’s just much more real and every year is just that much more precious.” 

In the first half of Simon’s visit, a brief documentary about his life was shown. Simon was born in Essen, Germany and was leading an ordinary life until the Nazis invaded and sent him to Dachau, a concentration camp containing over 200,000 people. Simon’s mother desperately searched for legal papers to get Simon a one year VISA. She was able to do so, and with the VISA, Simon traveled to Cuba. 

Simon stayed in Cuba until he was able to visit the Nazi Embassy in Havana, and got his passport licensed in order to move to the United States. He settled down in Missouri until Pearl Harbor was attacked and the United States entered World War II. Simon volunteered for the US Army.

Simon was later asked by the Counter Intelligence Core to become a “Nazi hunter” and played a part in bringing war criminals to the Nuremberg Trials. 

He later met his wife, Judie, who was also a Holocaust survivor and was imprisoned in the death camp at Auschwitz. Together they settled down in Ventura and still live there today. They are still married and visit many schools in order to speak about their experiences, spread their message, and enlighten students. 

“I hope to help students to become good citizens, enjoy their country, love their country, and take learning seriously. When they learn a lot they help themselves, they help their parents, they help their country,” Simon explained. “So they are helping all three entities when they learn and study, the more they know, the richer the world will become.” 

Simon explained why it was important to still learn about the Holocaust today.

 

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Many sophomores appreciated the gift of having Simon speak and felt very informed. 

Sophomore Jessi Pacheco was amazed that Simon decided to forgive the Nazis after all of the cruelty they had put him through. 

“When he talked about forgiveness and how he forgives the German people, I thought that was very inspiring because you can’t live with hatred all your life and you have to eventually forgive,” Pachecho said. 

Simon left with a few parting words.

“Take life seriously, obey the rules, and love your country.”

Background Photo Credit: Kazu Koba/The Foothill Dragon Press

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