This week, Holocaust survivor Pete Metzelaar shared with students in Great Falls his story of survival.
Metzelaar spoke at the Mansfield Theatre on Tuesday night.
He said he began public speaking in 1993 about his experiences, about one year after revisiting the farmhouse where his during much of the Holocaust.
“Out of a total coincidence I found the village, the farm, and the cave in the forest that I hid in. It was after that I visited the biggest of all death camps, Auschwitz-Birkenau. After that experience I felt that I wanted to talk about it,”
A member of the Holocaust Center for Humanity's Speakers Bureau in Seattle, Metzelaar shares his message with audiences across the country.
His experiences are detailed on the Holocaust Center for Humanity website. According to the site:
- In 1942, when Peter was only 7 years old, the Nazis seized his entire family, except for his mother Elli and him. The Dutch Underground contacted Klaus and Roefina Post on the Metzelaars’ behalf seeking a place of refuge. The Posts risked their lives to shelter Peter and his mother on their small farm in Makkinga in northern Holland. Until March of 1945, Peter and his mother remained there in hiding.
- After a time the Metzelaars could no longer continue to put the Posts at risk, o they contacted the Dutch Underground once more and found two women living in The Hague willing to shelter them. After about nine months in the Hague, Ellie got wind that the women had plans to turn them in. Disguised in a nurse’s uniform she sewed herself, Ellie and Pete escaped to the road, hoping to catch a ride back to Amsterdam. In a cunning display, they flagged down a Nazi troop convoy, fooled them into thinking they were a Red Cross nurse and orphan, and hitched a ride back to Amsterdam undetected.
As one of the few survivors still alive today, Metzelaar feels he must share his message for as long as he’s able: “The moment that I forget my story, it's all over,” he said.
He believes his message of acceptance is one that still holds relevance today.
“The main thing that I'm hoping for is to make people aware of tolerance..There's nothing wrong with being different,” Metzelaar said.
Metzelaar hopes he can use his horrific experiences to increase people’s awareness, especially younger listeners’, to the dangers of the “festering of hatred."