Sixth-grade students at Lynbrook North Middle School received a special visit from Holocaust survivor Bernard “Bernie” Igielski on March 14. Igielski spoke to students and staff about his experience living through the Holocaust and shared messages about the importance of love and forgiveness.
The assembly, held in the school’s general purpose room, was covered in artwork by the students in remembrance of the time period. They created posters with signs of peace and powerful words such as “Never Forget.” The students listened as Principal Sean Fallon introduced Igielski and his story. Through his personal experience, Igielski shared that he lost his family as he lived through two ghettos and eight concentration camps during the Holocaust. He explained that being in the concentration camps made him feel like a robot and that he learned to never challenge the authority.
“Survival was a 24-hour job,” he said.
Students also received a better understanding of Igielski’s life after he was liberated. He explained how he was alone and decided to stay in Germany. He also expressed his guilt for being a survivor but German families embraced him and showed him kindness. Through this, he found acceptance with the Germans and was able to forgive. In 1948, he moved to the United States and joined the U.S. Army which he referred to as “the best thing to happen to him.” At the end of the presentation, students asked Igielski questions that they had about his life and experiences.