A Member of Schindler’s List Speaks at Palmetto

February 27, 2019

On Feb. 19, Holocaust survivor Rena Finder presented in the Miami Palmetto High School auditorium about her experiences with World War II and Oskar Schindler, a well-known war hero who had the movie “Schindler’s List” based on him. Students, families and members of nearby synagogues came to hear her story.

“I think [the Holocaust] is really important for students to learn about. It’s fundamental,” freshman Ashley Lopez said.

Organized by Neehama Harlig from the Chabad Synagogue of Kendall, Finder represents the organization Facing History and Ourselves, a non-profit that sends her and others around the country to talk to students and educate them about the Holocaust.

“When I realized that our story might be forgotten if we don’t share it, that’s when I started to speak to students [about the Holocaust],” Finder said. “As eyewitnesses, there are fewer and fewer of us left.”

Born in 1929 in Kraków, Poland, Finder grew up surrounded by loving family and friends. Although anti-Semitism pervaded Poland at the time, Finder only felt the sting of prejudice as she grew older and the war began. It became common for her non-Jewish friends and neighbors to ignore the mistreatment she suffered.

“People did not care because it wasn’t happening to them, it was happening to Jews,” Finder said.

When German forces invaded Poland in 1939, Nazi troops forced Finder and her family to live in the Kraków Ghetto, and then to the Plaszów concentration camp — both places known for horrible treatment of Jewish people.

Relief came for Finder when she began working at Schindler’s kitchenware factory. Unlike the inhumane conditions at other work camps, Schindler gave people proper accommodations for food, sleeping and did not mistreat the Jewish people who worked for him. When German forces demanded he shut down his factory and send all his workers to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, Schindler negotiated his factory’s move to Czechoslovakia. He crafted a list — later known as “Schindler’s List” — of 1,300 workers to follow him there and stay away from Auschwitz. Finder’s name was on that list.

At 90 years old, Rena remains one of the youngest survivors alive to recount the horrors of the war and the events regarding Schindler, a name many people recognize from the award-winning movie, “Schindler’s List.”

“I am so lucky to be here tonight,” Finder said. “If it weren’t for Oskar Schindler, I wouldn’t be here.”

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