Holocaust survivor inspires students with message of tolerance and forgiveness

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Students at Babylon Junior-Senior High School and Babylon Memorial Grade School recently had the honor of listening to Esther Basch, a 91-year-old Holocaust survivor, as she shared her harrowing testimony through a series of age-appropriate assemblies at the schools.

Basch was connected to Babylon Union Free School District through her great-grandson Jake Turet, who is a 10th grader in the district. Christopher Ryan, the high school’s director of social studies, jumped at the opportunity to have Basch speak. “It’s one thing to teach about the Holocaust and its history, it’s another thing to hear a firsthand account from someone who actually went through it,” Ryan said. “It makes it real for the students. It enables them to understand and appreciate the topic more than just reading about it in a textbook.”

One of the biggest lessons that became “real” for Babylon students was that of forgiveness. Basch explained that, despite the immense suffering and trauma the Nazis caused her and so many others, she forgives them. When asked how this could be possible, she replied, “It’s very simple; if I don’t forgive, if I hold a grudge, I only hurt myself.” She also related her experience to the students’ lives by drawing parallels to bullying, in hopes of making them mindful of avoiding bullying behavior in school and beyond.

Basch, who has given speeches throughout the country in recent years, emphasized just how powerful they have been in encouraging coexistence, saying, “I have many, many letters from youngsters, thank-you notes, telling me, ‘Mrs. Basch, we’ll make sure it’ll never happen again.’”