The Third Annual Carter Arts & Lecture Series at Bainbridge State College launched on Thursday evening with a Holocaust survivor speaking about his experiences in the concentration camps, reconstructing his life afterwards and encouraging people to be humane to one another.
A packed Kirbo Center Auditorium listened intently as Dr. Eugen Schoenfeld retold his story of survival during one of the most horrific events in history.
From 1944 to 1945, Schoenfeld was interned as a prisoner at Auschwitz, Dachau and Muehldorf concentration camps. He and his father were the only survivors of his immediate family.
The survivor told many stories of his experience—which included the day of his liberation.
On May 2, 1945, he woke up to the sound of gunfire—and then there was no noise coming from the camp. He and the other prisoners finally decided to open the doors and go outside.
It was then a tank was heard and an American lieutenant asked for someone who could speak English.
Miraculously, Schoenfeld’s English improved and he was able to speak to the lieutenant.
It was then he reclaimed his humanity that the Nazis had taken from him.
“For over a year, I had used a number as my identity—90, 138. The Germans dehumanized you in many ways, but one of their most drastic forms of dehumanization was taking away your name,” said Schoenfeld. “It was then for the first time in over a year I introduced myself to the American lieutenant. I said, lieutenant, my name is Eugen Schoenfeld.”
One of the primary messages he wanted the audience to take with them was to be humane to one another.
After liberation, Schoenfeld attended medical school in Prague for only one year. He then immigrated to St. Louis on a full scholarship. It was there he received a master’s in Sociology from Washington University. He continued his studies and earned a Ph.D. from Southern Illinios University.
Schoenfeld was a professor and Chair Emeritus of the Department of Sociology at Georgia State University for a number of years. Since retirement, he continues to travel and speak to students, and diverse civic groups on his lifetime experiences. Currently, he has two books: My Reconstructed Life and Faith & Conflict.
Since the 1970s, Schoenfeld has been living in Atlanta. His wife passed away last year. He has four children and a host of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
In an earlier interview, he said, “Every time somebody’s born in the family, I raise up a glass and I say, Hitler, I have defeated you.”
This event was in partnership with the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust based in Atlanta.
For more information on the Carter Arts & Lecture Series’ upcoming events, please visit www.bainbridge.edu, or follow the Bainbridge State College or the Carter Arts and Lecture Series on Facebook.