Holocaust survivor Irving Roth devotes his time and efforts to teaching the horrors of what he endured during the Holocaust and educating the public about antisemitism, which is the prejudice against Jews.
Roth was invited to speak to UNC Charlotte students on behalf of the Christians United for Israel (CUfI) chapter on campus. CUfI can be found on universities nationwide.
Before going into his story, Roth took some time to introduce himself. He is the recipient of numerous awards for his teachings on the Holocaust.
He has a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering, which he received while attending school in New York.
After his short introduction, Roth showed a short 8-minute video giving some background information on the Holocaust and Jewish History, which he used to transition into his story.
“This evening, what I would like to do is take you on a journey, a journey of my life,” said Roth.
Roth was born in 1929, in Czechoslovakia.
Roth had a happy life as a child. He went to school, had friends and lived in a place where Jews lived with non-Jews, as he put it.
However, this life that Roth lived did not last for long.
“Slowly, step-by-step, my life changes,” said Roth.
By law, Roth, along with every other Jew, was required to identify themselves as Jews. Not long after that, they had their luxuries taken away, his father’s business stolen from him and he could no longer attend school.
Simply because he was Jewish.
He lived like this for a few years until 1944, when he was stuffed in a cattle car and taken to Auschwitz at the age of 15 years old.
He was taken there with his 18-year-old brother, but was separated from his mother and father.
Stepping off the train, he was greeted by Nazi’s, pointing guns at the crowd, who were dividing people into groups. Roth watched as people he knew were walked over to take a “shower”, but were instead led to the gas chambers and executed. His grandmother and 10-year-old cousin died that day in the gas chamber, along with thousands of others.
“It was a factory of death … the final solution to the Jews,” said Roth.
Roth and his brother were given tattoos and sent to work. He was sent to work with the horses, which he knew nothing about, but his life depended on his ability to work.
While he was working, Roth often questioned how he ended up in Aushwitz. He wondered how the perfectly normal life he had, was uprooted by the Nazi’s. How his life changed after Germany invaded Czechoslovakia.
One day, Roth and his brother are forced on a death march to another camp. Weak and malnourished, they some how made it.
Not long after that, his brother is taken away and Roth never sees him again.
The end of the war is nearing and the Nazi’s are preparing Roth and the other people at the camp for another death march. There is no chance Roth could survive another one, but as they assembled at the gates, the alarm signaling an air raid forces everyone into hiding.
The next day, the Nazi’s are gone and American soldiers have liberated the camp. Two soldiers, who had searched Roth’s bunker, saw how malnourished everybody was, brought food for them.
Roth, a 15-year-old boy in the middle of post-war Germany is now liberated. He decides to go home, hoping that, by some miracle, his family is still alive.
When he returns to his home, he opens the front door, walks into the living room and sees non-other than his mother, who is sitting on the couch. The sight of him causes her to faint. Both his parents had survived and were home.
Roth’s father was in a coma at the time and his mother was with him in the hospital. One of the hospital employees offered to hide them in her home, so they did. His parents had survived because of the generosity of one women. A women whose husband was serving in the German military and was a member of the Nazi party.
They had hid in this women’s one-bedroom apartment for the remainder of the war.
Roth ended his speech to talk about the state of the Jewish people in today’s world. There is still a lot of hate and prejudice towards the Jews. Jews are still the targets of terrorist attacks in Israel.
“The haters of the Jews could not destroy them through war. So they turned to terrorisms,” said Roth.
He emphasized that terrorism is everywhere and that the Jewish people are still not safe in some places of the world. They are still demonized, according to Roth.
After his speech, he took some questions from the audience and explained how he came to be in America and how he transitioned from life in a concentration camp, to living in New York and attending school again.
The speech was originally planned to take place in Denny Room 220. However, it was moved to McKnight Hall last minute to accommodate more people.
Roth’s speech also started later to give people time to make their way over from Denny.