KINGSTON, R.I. — March 28, 2017 — It is not often that a community hears directly from a Holocaust survivor, but the University of Rhode Island will have this opportunity next month. Werner Reich, Holocaust survivor and grandfather of URI student Ben Reich, will speak at URI on Sunday, April 23 as part of the Holocaust Remembrance Week, organized by URI Hillel and the Office of Community, Equity and Diversity.
In honor of the Holocaust Remembrance Day, also known as Yom Hashoah, a brunch will be held at noon in the Memorial Union ballroom, 50 Lower College Road on the Kingston campus. Brunch will be followed by Reich’s presentation, “Bad Things Happen When Good People Do Nothing,” with time for questions and answers. The event is open to the public, but registration is required.
The brunch is the first of the events that will take place through the week, including the Field of Flags Memorial Display, vigil ceremony and community walk in silence, and an art exhibit “Triumph of Memory,” with a hands-on workshop. For complete event details, visit http://www.urihillel.org/holocaust-remembrance-week-2017.html.
In advance of his visit, Reich graciously answered some questions from URI’s Department of Marketing and Communications intern Sarah Saltiel-Ragot. Below are some of the questions and responses:
About Werner Reich
Reich and his family had lived in Berlin, but moved to Yugoslavia in 1933 after his father had lost his job because he was Jewish. They lived in hiding after Hitler invaded Yugoslavia, but were arrested by the Gestapo in 1943. Reich was sent to the concentration camp of Terezin, then to Auschwitz-Birkenau. He survived the largest death march in World War II as he was forced to the concentration camp of Mauthausen. That camp was liberated by U.S. troops in May 1945, when Reich was only 17 years old.
Visiting dozens of schools and synagogues every year, Reich now uses what happened to him to tell younger generations about the Holocaust but also to warn about the present and what current events could lead to or their similarities with history.
When asked about the message he would like to send, Reich said unfortunately he sees many parallels between the situation he experienced in Europe in the 1930s and 40s and in America today:
“Bad things happen when good people do nothing. Help without being asked. This is the message that I keep repeating.”
Werner Reich’s grandson, Ben, also sees similarities between history and present time. This is why he thinks it is important that Holocaust survivors speak now, because they are reaching 90 years old and over and this is the last chance to hear direct witnesses from this time in history.
Sarah Saltiel-Ragot, an international student from Sciences Po Rennes in France and an intern in URI’s Department of Marketing and Communications, wrote this news release.