On April 26 the Hillel Club sponsored a speech by 81-year-old Joseph Lubell in Gibble Auditorium about his experiences with the Holocaust. Roughly 75 to 100 people attended.
“The audience was attentive and received his lecture well. He involved students and faculty in a role-playing exercise, in an effort to demonstrate the tough choices that Jewish leaders in the Warsaw Ghetto had to make. A number of audience members also asked substantive questions after his lecture ended,” Dr. Brian Newsome of the Department of History said.
Lubell began his speech by stating that his mother left 11 brothers and sisters as well as her mother in Poland when she came with his father to the United States in 1923. As the siblings grew up, they married and had a total of 26 children just before the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939.
He went on to say that communication between him and his family in Poland was cut off in 1941 after hearing that they were being held in the Warsaw Ghetto. This particular ghetto was located in an area of less than two square miles, but held nearly 500,000 Jews in terrible conditions. While in Warsaw, disease and starvation led to the death of thousands every month, and if the Jews were not killed by disease or starvation, then they were likely to be sent to the Treblinka concentration camp. Deportation to this camp meant inevitable extermination.
Shortly after the family’s communication was disconnected by the Nazi regime, Lubell was informed that the family on his mother’s side was sent to the Treblinka death camps and sentenced to the gas chambers. Lubell also learned that an uncle on his father’s side, a Lubellcyck, was sent to Auschwitz with his two children, where they were eventually murdered.
Lubell then spoke of his visit to Poland in the 1990s. He said that he could never grasp the fact that civilized people could place innocent men, women and children into gas chambers and kill them. He believes it just goes to show that human beings will sink to new levels when under strict dictatorship that has no respect for the lives of innocent people. Lubell went on to say that the Nazi mentality was that there was no wrong in killing Jews, Slavic persons, gypsies, homosexuals or those with mental defects.
“Mr. Lubell’s talk provided an opportunity to contemplate the personal nature of the Holocaust. All too often, people tend to consider the Holocaust at the level of the abstract — the total of 6 million who lost their lives. The horror becomes more meaningful — more real — when one stops to think that each of these was a person with hopes, dreams and a family,” Newsome said.
Lubell said that his speeches always include a few key components. The first aspect describes the nature of the Nazi program to kill every Jew who was found, with no exceptions. His program always enlightens the audience that approximately 11 million people were gassed and reduced to ashes; 6 million were Jews and roughly 5 million were not of Jewish descent. He also clearly states that in the midst of all the Nazi insanity, there was always a small group of dedicated non-Jews who risked their lives to oppose Hitler’s Final Solution.
“You can become a more tolerant person if you study the Holocaust,” Lubell observed.
Lubell is an active speaker and has been telling his family’s story for quite some time. He teaches about the Holocaust at Cedar Crest College’s program for retirees. He has also been a Holocaust presenter for Muhlenberg College’s Christian-Judiac Program since 2005.
Lubell previously worked as an in-service course instructor in the public schools of New York and delivered lectures for the Middle Atlantic States Social Studies Conference. He hopes that people will become more tolerant and accepting of one another after hearing his lectures and stories.
“I hope my lectures make people aware that we in the U.S. must be careful in not engaging in anti-Semetic attitudes such as exhibited by Mel Gibson, or anti-racial bias as I see exhibited against the current President of the United States,” Lubell commented.