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Holocaust Survivors Recount Experiences, Emphasize Education

January marked the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, a concentration camp whose name evokes black-and-white images of stacked, emaciated bodies, the rise of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust.

As time goes on, we lose more of the voices of those who survived the numerous death camps that dotted Europe during World War II.

Ray Fiol is a Holocaust survivor, and Esther Finder is the child of two Holocaust survivors. Both are part of Generation Shoah International, an advocacy group that promotes Holocaust education both here in Southern Nevada and worldwide.

Fiol's parents entrusted a family in the French Ardennes to hide her during the war. She said that she was instructed to tell others that she was the family's niece, visiting from Paris, and to give a fake name. But, when she went to register with the German commandant who ran the town, she slipped and gave her birth name.

"This is an incident that's etched in my mind for the rest of my life," Fiol said. "I could see the blood drain out of their faces, because we could have been shot. He had a pistol on, and he could have shot all three of us at once."

Finder said that as the child of two survivors, she -- and other children of survivors in the United States -- see the world in a slightly different way.

"I think we have a different sense of respect and a different appreciation for being American," she said. "My parents were not just second-class citizens -- they lost all rights of citizenship. They were property to be disposed of."

Both Fiol and Finder remain optimistic that, through their educational efforts, further atrocities like the Holocaust can be prevented. But both remain worried about the current geopolitical landscape, and fear educators are not doing enough to make sure students know the horrors of what happened, lest they happen again.


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Ray Fiol, Holocaust survivor; Esther Finder, child of Holocaust survivors

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Casey Morell is the coordinating producer of Nevada Public Radio's flagship broadcast State of Nevada and one of the station's midday newscast announcers. (He's also been interviewed by Jimmy Fallon, whatever that's worth.)