FORT MILL --
When Rebecca Szer graduated from Fort Mill High School, her plans were to study Pre-Medicine at The College Of Charleston. Little did she know that by signing up for a program at the end of her sophomore year, she would have a life-changing experience.
She recently told her story at a regular monthly social of Temple Solel, where she and her parents, Steve and Carol, are members.
Rebecca, now a rising junior, registered for a two-week program abroad entitled, “Tracing the Holocaust Through Eastern Europe.” The trip included numerous stops in Poland, Lithuania, and Germany with visits to three concentration camps, four Jewish ghettos and nine museums/cultural centers. She was so moved by the experience that she has already signed up to be a part of the same program as a peer facilitator in May 2013.
One of her most memorable visits she said, was to Vilnius, Lithuania, where Szer learned detailed accounts of what took place in the Kovno Ghetto from which her grandfather had escaped.
“When I read and watched videos on what took place in that ghetto, it made me realize how much he must have gone through, how much pain he must have felt, and how many loved ones he probably watched die,” Szer said.
“Only eight percent of the 30,000 Jews in the Kovno Ghetto survived. Only eight percent, and my grandfather was one of them. I wondered, how do you go on living an average life, when someone took such extraordinary measures just to give you that life.”
Szer said she is very concerned that all the people who were there and experienced the horrors of the Holocaust are aging and dying, and that soon no one will be left to tell what happened.
“It will all be history, and the problem with history is that people forget it.”
It drove her, she said, to make a promise to herself:
“I realized that no matter what I do in life, I have to make sure people remember,” Szer said.
In commenting on why she is going back as a peer facilitator next May, she said, “I want to help people have the same experience I had so that they will want to pass on the stories so that they will never be forgotten.”
When asked about her own faith, Szer said, “I thought the experience might make me doubt God after seeing the horror that he let his people face. But instead, it made me more religious than I had ever been. It made me gain faith in my people, and want to pass on their legacy they worked so hard to keep.”
On the personal side, Szer spoke of the inspiration she received.
“If my grandfather could live through all that horror, escape a Nazi ghetto, live in the woods for a year, come to America and build his own successful business from absolutely nothing, just think what I could do,” Szer said.