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Holocaust survivor Zev Harel: 'Do all you can to be as good as you can be'

Harel, a professor emeritus at Cleveland State University, inspires audience at Elon University.

“Reflect on those days and the meaning of those days,” Holocaust survivor and Professor Emeritus of Cleveland State University Zev Harel told the assembled crowd at Elon University on May 3. “Reflect on where we are today and where you want us to be in the future.”

For the crowd of students, faculty, and staff who heard Harel share his memories of World War II in the packed LaRose Digital Theatre, those words were inspiring and impactful.

“One of the things I found really moving about the speaker is how he had a message for us,” shared Elon student Sara Lewin.

Harel is a survivor of the Auschwitz, Mauthausen and Ebensee concentration camps who was liberated by the Third Cavalry of the U.S. Army at the age of 15. He moved to Israel (then Palestine) after the end of World War II, and fought for the independence of the Jewish state in the elite Harel Brigade of the Palmach in the 1948 war.

Elon Hillel, The History Department, The Jewish Studies Department and The Center for Study of Religion, Culture, and Society came together to host Harel, whose words transfixed the crowd of hundreds who gathered that evening.

Although there are barely words to describe the unspeakable horrors that Harel experienced, he shared his powerful memories of living in a ghetto, seeing his grandfather killed before his eyes, and the horrid, unforgettable smell of the concentration camp at Auschwitz when he arrived there on a transport.

“I remember that night. The sky was so beautiful, the sky was full of stars, but the stench,” Harel said.

But rather than dwelling on those details, Harel acknowledged the veterans of World Ward II who saved his life and the lives of so many others when they fought the Nazis. And he shared tales of the righteous who risked their lives to help others, and whose bravery inspired him to survive.

Harel shared an inspiring message with his audience, telling them to be grateful and thankful for life, to reflect on the past, but to look towards the future.

“Make yourself as righteous as you can be,” he told his audience.

Towards the end of his remarks, Harel offered up a special charge for the students in the audience:  “You are the future,” he told them, “young men and women here, do all you can to be as good as you can be.” 


Hillary Zaken,
5/15/2017 12:50 PM