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Holocaust Survivor: Keeping Silent About Bad Things Does Not Make Them Go Away

Ruth Weiner sat on the stage of the Hubbard Performance Hall on Thursday night, May 11, and began by saying what a beautiful day it had been. It was one of those bright, sunny, warm days of spring that feels like summer. But, Ms. Weiner said, she would be talking about something very dark. 

“I can think of an awful lot of things you could be doing for fun at the end of the day, but I thank you all for coming here,” Ms. Weiner said before a large gathering of Loomis Chaffee students. 

She is a Holocaust survivor who grew up in Vienna. She described her early life as idyllic. That changed for all of Vienna's Jewish population in 1938 with the Nazi's annexation of Austria. 

Students surround Ruth Weiner at Holocaust event in Hubbard in May 2023.

“And this is why I do it,” Ruth Weiner says of her many speaking engagements on surviving the Holocuast, “the fact that all these beautiful young people are responding.” 

By 1939 Ms. Weiner, then 8 years old, had fled the Nazi regime through the Kindertransport (children’s transport), which rescued children from Nazi-controlled territory in the months before World War II. Ms. Weiner and her family reunited and moved to Hartford in 1940.  After Ms. Weiner’s presentation, Nicky’s Family, a film based on the stories of survivors like Ms. Weiner, was screened. 

Ms. Weiner is 92 years old. She had no notes. She needed no notes. Her experiences are inside of her to stay. For her, there is no blocking them out. Over the years she has often spoken to groups. 

“Not talking about something does not make it go away,” Ms. Weiner said. “So the only thing worse than talking about bad things is not talking about bad things.” 

She spoke of the millions of Jews who were murdered. 

“Six million,” she said. “That is a lot of zeroes. Think of every single person you know, everybody in this school, everybody in Windsor, everybody in the town you come from, everyone in the state of Connecticut. Every man, woman, and child. And that is not nearly enough.” 

About 3.6 million people live in Connecticut.  

“Just think of the talent lost to this world. Think of the families,” she said. “Two, three generations have passed, and the pain has endured.” 

She suggested that the students read the book Night by Elie Wiesel based on his Holocaust experiences with his father in the Nazi concentration camps. Not that it would be easy. “You almost don’t want to turn the page because you don’t want to find out what is on the next page and the page after that,” Ms. Weiner said. 

After she had spoken to the students, she was asked how difficult it is to constantly relive the Holocaust. 

“It's not easy,” she said.  

She paused. 

“Not easy, but it is like anything else you do that you consider important in your life. You come to gather yourself together and do it.” 

She glanced at the audience. 

“And this is why I do it,” she said, “the fact that all these beautiful young people are responding.” 

Many of the students stayed after the presentation to watch the film, and Ms. Weiner was surrounded by students still eager to ask questions. 

The event was sponsored by the Rubenstein Family Holocaust Education Fund through the Norton Family Center for the Common Good. Richard ’65 and Lea Rubenstein were at the event. The fund supports the education of Loomis Chaffee students on the horrors of the holocaust.  

The History, Philosophy & Religious Studies Department and its teachers incorporated the ruth Weiner event into the curriculum in several classes this spring, and seniors from the Global & Environmental Studies Certificate program hosted the event. Seniors Zoe Santilli, Ali Benthien, and Nate Judson introduced Ms. Weiner.   


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