Middle School students on Thursday, April 28, learned from Dr. Alfred Munzer, who told them about his life as a Jewish child in the Netherlands during the Holocaust, when that country was occupied by Nazi Germany.
Shortly after he was born in November 1941, Dr. Munzer's parents decided that the best way to protect him from the murderous Nazi regime was to separate him from them and his two sisters. He was able to enjoy his early formative years under the care of a loving man who lived nearby and a nanny, but both his sisters were killed at Auschwitz concentration camp in 1944 - among the roughly 1.5 million children killed during the Holocaust.
Dr. Munzer's father, who was also sent to Auschwitz, died in July 1945. Dr. Munzer was not able to reunite with his mother until he was almost 5 years old. One of his first clear memories from childhood is pushing her away at that reunion, because he did not know her. The nanny, who he did know and love, remained part of his life, but sadly she passed away in September 1945.
Despite enduring such tragedy at a young age, Dr. Munzer took away positives. The man who took him, Tole Madna, was not Jewish or Dutch - he was Indonesian - but loved him like a son. The two remained close for the rest of Mr. Madna's life.
“To him it was not a choice," Dr. Munzer said. “It was just the right thing to do."
In 1958, Dr. Munzer moved to the United States, where he had a successful career in medicine. A physician, he specialized in diseases of the lung, serving for a time as President of the American Lung Association. In 2000, he was awarded the Will Ross Medal, the highest honor given by the association for volunteer service at the national level.
In retirement, he has remained active highlighting the atrocities of the Holocaust and advocating for a better world. He has been a volunteer at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, translating diaries from Dutch into English for a series called Jewish Responses to Persecution. He also has shared his story of survival to countless groups.
His main message: The Holocaust was the result of prejudice and bigotry. Avoid bullying and treat others as you would treat yourself.
“We are all part of one human family," Dr. Munzer said. “That's the most important lesson to learn from the Holocaust."