Genocide Survivors Speak at Xavier University

March 29, 2010

Holocaust Survivor David Gewirtzman and Rwandan Genocide Survivor Eugenie Mukeshimana will share their stories in a lecture called, “Survivor Soulmates” on Tuesday, April 13 at 7 pm in Bellarmine Chapel on the Xavier University campus. This event is free and open to all.

In the Talmud it is written, “Whoever saves a single life, saves an entire universe.”

Over sixty years ago Europe was engulfed in violence, terror, and unimaginable horror as the Jewish communities were arrested and slaughtered during the Holocaust. Many neighbors chose to ignore the suffering. It was easier to be indifferent. Food and other resources were scarce. If they were caught helping Jews, they faced arrest and possibly execution. Yet, a courageous minority risked their lives out of compassion for their fellow man by hiding their Jewish friends, neighbors, and sometimes strangers, from the Nazis.

Fifty years after the Holocaust, a few brave neighbors and strangers once again took a stand against hate by allowing Tutsi refugees to hide in their homes, thereby shielding them from the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. Their bravery allows us to hear the important and vital stories of those whose lives they saved.

In September of 1939, the German army invaded 11-year-old David Gewirtzman’s hometown in Poland. For the next five years, he and his family survived the Losice Ghetto and a labor camp until a Catholic family courageously and benevolently hid him in their home until his liberation in 1944. After this experience, Gewirtzman became committed to sharing his story with the rest of the world.

Eugenie Mukeshimana first heard Gewirtzman’s powerful story on a national television program. Mukeshimana felt an instant connection with him. In 1994 Mukeshimana and her newborn daughter survived the bloodshed of the Rwandan genocide, during which nearly 800,000 Rwandans lost their lives. They survived by hiding with numerous strangers throughout the slaughter.

Today Mukeshimana and Gewirtzman call themselves “Survivor Soulmates” and travel throughout the country to speak about their experiences. Revisiting painful memories, they speak with the hope that audiences will examine intolerance and hatred in their own lives, and take action to build a more unified world. Their survival reminds us of the bravery, compassion, and charity of those who protected them, risking their own lives and safety for their fellow brothers and sisters

Presented by The Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education, the Brueggeman Center for Dialogue at Xavier University, and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, with support from the Ohio Humanities Council, the event is free and open to the public. For more information, contact the Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education at 513-487-3055.