Holocaust survivor Max Eisen speaks with PVNC students as they prepare to visit concentration camps in Europe

July 5, 2019

More than 30 students are currently travelling in Europe as part of the Board’s Educational Holocaust Program

Holocaust survivor Max Eisen told a group of PVNC students and educators that visiting Auschwitz and bearing witness to the holocaust will be among the most important things they do in their lives.

Director of Education Michael Nasello and a group of educators are currently leading a group of more than 30 students to Germany and Poland as part of the Board’s Educational Holocaust Program.

On Friday, July 5, a day before their departure, the class welcomed Eisen to St. Stephen Catholic Secondary School where he spoke for more than two hours about his experience.

Eisen was born in Moldava, Czechoslovakia into an Orthodox Jewish family. But in the spring of 1944 — five and a half years after his region had been annexed to Hungary and the morning after the family’s yearly Passover Seder — gendarmes forcibly removed Eisen and his family from their home.

At 15, Eisen survived the selection process at Auschwitz-Birkenau and was inducted into the camp as a slave labourer. One day, he received a terrible blow from an SS guard. Severely injured, he was dumped at the hospital where a Polish political prisoner and physician, Tadeusz Orzeszko, operated on him.

Despite his significant injury, Orzeszko saved Eisen from certain death in the gas chambers by giving him a job as a cleaner in the operating room. After his liberation and new trials in Communist Czechoslovakia, Eisen immigrated to Canada in 1949, where he has dedicated the last 22 years of his life to educating others about the Holocaust across Canada and around the world.

His book By Chance Alone recently won CBC’s Canada Reads competition.