Holocaust Survivor Shares His Story

Everett Bishop, Staff Writer

Family, friends, and students of the University of New Haven gathered in Bucknall Hall on Tuesday to attend a service for Holocaust Remembrance Day. Speakers at the event included Rabbi Andrew Hechtman, Provost of the University of New Haven, Daniel May, retired university professor Ira Kleinfeld, university professor Bradley Woodworth, Julianna Bigami, and Holocaust survivor Isidor (Izzy) Juda.

Juda was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1921. As a child, he had dreams of becoming a doctor, but he could not attend medical school because of the anti-Semitism that was common in the city of Vienna and because his parents could not afford the expenses. Juda then decided to go to business school after finishing his required schooling.He was enrolled in business school when Adolf Hitler took over Austria in 1938.

“On March the twelfth, 1938, when I was on my way home from business school, I was going to my subway station,” said Juda. “However, I was not able to cross one of the main streets in the city. Adolf Hitler was entering the city of Vienna. There were lines of people cheering the man whose goal was to take over Austria and the rest of the world. As I got home my mother was standing in the door crying and saying ‘Hitler’s in Vienna.’ I said to her ‘I know. I saw him.’”

Juda described the increased amounts of anti-Semitism that he witnessed not only from strangers, but from peers he once called friends. He told the audience about the atrocities he witnessed, such as a German S.S. officer slamming a young child against a wall until he killed them, and the story of Juda’s own family being arrested.

With luck, Juda was able to escape Europe and go to America where he reunited with his family. It took him escaping to Switzerland by several different trains, narrowly escaping S.S. officers, and obtaining a visa and passport from both the German and Italian consulates, respectively. Juda’s documents, which he held for the audience to see, were branded with a bright red “J” designating him as a Jew.

Juda returned to Europe not long after he escaped to America. After working in a grocery store in New Jersey, Juda was enlisted in the U.S. Army. During his time in the armed forces, Juda earned both a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart for his service.

The memorial service included a reading of Holocaust victims’ names who were in some way members of the university community, a candle lighting ceremony by university students, and a reading of two poems by Holocaust victim Hannah Senesh, staged and performed by Bobby DellaCamera, Dalimar Irizarry, and Samantha Slaza of the university theater department.

The remembrance ceremony concluded with a moment of silence for the victims of the Holocaust, and a memorial blessing by Rabbi Hechtman.  

“May their memory endure, inspiring truth and loyalty in our lives,” said Hechtman, leading the audience in a unison prayer for the victims. “May their souls thus be bound up in the bond of life. May they rest in peace. And let us say ‘Amen.’”