Robbie Waisman, a Holocaust survivor who was liberated from the Buchenwald Concentration Camp by American forces in April of 1945, will speak on the Furman University campus Monday, Nov. 9 at 7 p.m. in Younts Conference Center.
His talk, “Testimony to the Human Spirit: A Holocaust Survivor’s Story,” is free and open to the public. It is organized by the Greenville Jewish Federation and sponsored by Furman, Bon Secours St. Francis Health System, The Humanities Council SC , Greenville Health System, St. Joseph’s Catholic High School, South State Bank and Converse College.
The CLP event is free and open to the public.
Waisman was born in 1931 in Skar?ysko, Poland, into a tight-knit family and a warm Jewish community. His serene childhood, however, was quickly shattered by an onslaught against his community, starting with the German invasion of Poland in September of 1939. He managed to survive in the Skarszko Ghetto, followed by a long period in a munitions factory, and finally in the Buchenwald Concentration Camp.
Along with over 900 other young boys, Waisman was ultimately the beneficiary of a well-organized underground operation, ran primarily by adult Communist political prisoners in Buchenwald. He was held in Block 8, of which Franz Leitner and, later, Wilhelm Hammann acted as Block Elders.
These boys were liberated by American forces on April 11, 1945. Waisman would later reunite with one of his liberators, Dr. Leon Bass, a long time Philadelphia high school principal, who passed away earlier this year.
From his family of two parents and six children, Waisman and his sister Leah would be the only survivors of World War II and the Holocaust. After liberation, he went with 426 other surviving boys to France, with the help of the OSE children’s relief organization. There, he would resume his education and “become human again.”
Waisman eventually settled in Canada, married his sweetheart, Gloria, and they now live in Vancouver, along with their children and grandchildren. He owned various businesses over the years and has held many leadership roles in the Jewish community.
He would later look back and say, “My only regret is that I do not have any photographs of my family. I am always envious of people who have a picture of their parents.” He would later be given a photo of one of his older brothers, Chaim, but he would still have to rely on his memory to recall the image of his parents. No surviving photo of them exists.
In spite of going through such torment, Waisman remains positive and tries to live his “duty and obligation to make this a better world.” He considers himself a spokesperson for the 1.5 million Jewish children whose voices were silenced by the Holocaust.
While he is visiting the Upstate, Waisman will also speak at Converse College Sunday, Nov. 8 at 3 p.m. in Hartness Auditorium, and at St. Joseph’s High School in Greenville Tuesday, Nov. 10 at 7 p.m. in Pope John Paul II Center.
For more information, contact Amy Vaz at 864-382-9383 and programs@JewishGreenville.org.