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RISE Coordinates Lunch and Learn Event with Holocaust Survivor, Max Weisglass

Thursday, April 11th, the RISE department coordinated a Lunch and Learn event to honor guest speaker, Max Weisglass, a Holocaust survivor, as he shared the story of his life experiences.   This event was originally inspired by an LCS seventh grader, Everett Volheim, who was receiving guidance from Mrs. Elizabeth Holcomb regarding a WWIII project. Eventually Volheim and Mrs. Holcomb’s collaborations brought them to the Holocaust Museum in St. Pete where they found Holocaust Survivor Max Weisglass.   With the support of Mr. Canady and the RISE program, Volheim and Mrs. Holcomb’s findings developed into a beautiful and unique opportunity to bless many others in the LCS family through a Lunch and Learn event.   A few select LCS high school students were encouraged to be “table hosts” and invite 4-5 of their peers to be guests at their table to attend this event. The chairs and tables for the event quickly maxed out leaving “standing room only” for any additional administration, faculty, & staff that attended the event.   The middle school students, parents, many faculty and staff first received the opportunity to hear Mr. Weisglass at the 8:30am Chapel Thursday morning. Then, the high school students (with many additional faculty and staff) attended the Lunch and Learn in the LCS Howard Hall at 12pm.   “Why does this matter?” asked Mrs. Canady regarding this event. “In 1945, there were between 2.7 and 3.5 million Holocaust survivors.  Now there are fewer than 50,000 worldwide.  It is estimated that in 5-10 years they will all be gone.  To hear about the Holocaust firsthand is an extraordinary opportunity for our students.”   Special thank you to Woodall’s Mobile Home Village for sponsoring the event and to Chick-fil-a for providing the food.     Story #16Holocaust Survivor: Max WeisglassLocation: Punta Gorda, FLIn honor of the 25th Anniversary of The Florida Holocaust Museum (The FHM), this oral history series shares the stories of twenty-five Holocaust Survivors. Each Survivor brings to the series an individual voice that enlivens our understanding of the Holocaust; the war’s effects on individuals, families, and communities dispersed across the world; and its reverberations into the present moment.

Max Weisglass was born in the Polish city of Borszczów (current-day Borshchiv, Ukraine), on September 28, 1936. By the time he was eight, Borszczów would pass from Polish to Russian to Hungarian to German control, while Max and his parents would manage to survive the liquidation of the Borszczów ghetto only by hiding in a series of windowless bunkers, once for a full ten months.

At the time of Max’s birth, Borszczów had a population of roughly ten thousand, evenly split among Jews, Ukrainians, and Poles. Although Max was an only child, his large family of grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins all lived in the town. Max describes Borszczów as “a market town, a very busy town,” due to its location near the Polish-Ukrainian border. “It was an old city,” Max says, “and there was a lot of agriculture . . . a lot activity going on around that city. It was quite well-known in the area.”

Max’s father owned an art supply store, but was forced out of work after the Soviet Union took control of the region in 1939, on the basis that his work as a merchant was anti-communist. The family left Borszczów for Max’s father’s home town, where they remained for several years. In July 1941, German forces invaded the region and the Soviets evacuated. From July until September 1941, Borszczów was under Hungarian administration, then fell under direct German control.

After the Soviet evacuation, Max’s family returned to Borszczów. “We thought wrongly, obviously, that we would be better off under German occupations than we were under the Russians,” Max says. “In 1941, restrictive laws were put into effect and we had to leave our house and we had to move into the ghettos. . . . They had us put on armbands and everything was in short supply.”

The ghetto, Max recalled, was “really a terrible place to live and for a year and a half, everybody suffered.” In Borszczów, underground bunkers were the best chance for survival.

The Borszczów ghetto was an open ghetto, which allowed the inhabitants to visit a Wednesday market where bartering occurred. “The only diversion,” Max says of life in the ghetto, “was building bunkers . . . being smarter than the Germans and the Ukrainian police.” After every “action,” systematic events in which randomly selected Jews were killed or removed from the ghetto, “they knew where the bunkers were, so you couldn’t use them again,” Max recalled.

Most of the time spent inside the ghetto was centered around building and protecting bunkers. “You had to watch yourself,” Max says. “You had to build it with only a few people; you didn’t want everybody in that house to share that bunker because if the Germans discovered the bunker, they tortured them to tell if there was another, to give up the people from that house. So you had to build in secret, from your neighbors, from your family.

The bunkers, however, could only keep people safe for so long. In summer 1943, when Max was six years old, the Borszczów ghetto was slated for liquidation, along with many others in Eastern Europe. Word eventually spread throughout Borszczów about the upcoming action and the impending closure of the ghetto.

This warning allowed for a brief period of time to prepare, and for a chance meeting that would end up saving Max and his family.

To continue reading about Max Weisglass life story, visit:  https://www.flholocaustmuseum.org/survivor-stories/story-16-max-weisglass/

Life Story Written by: Caitlin Coutant and Timothy Walsh

Edited by: Sarah Hagerty, Jared Stark, and Kristen Wright