Teaching tolerance

Irma Lemus

MEDIA DISTRICT NORTH -- Fifty-five years have passed, but Kurt Bronner

can still vividly recall his mother being beaten by a Nazi soldier as he

watched helplessly through a barbed wire fence. It was the last time

Bronner, now 74, ever saw his mother.

The Encino resident revisited the horrific nine months he spent at

Bergen-Belsen, a concentration camp in northern Germany, Friday during a

presentation to Burbank High School students.

The event was part of the Burbank Human Relations Council's Holocaust

remembrance program, held every April and May to coincide with Burbank's

Interfaith Days of Remembrance. About 25 Holocaust survivors and

liberators are involved in the program, speaking at area schools about

the human toll of hate and bigotry run amok.

"If you remember anything from today, remember that hate exists and

you, as future leaders, must stop the Holocaust from happening again,"

Bronner, a Hungarian native, told the students.

"People think that it can't happen here, but I remember my father once

told me that it couldn't happen in Hungary and it did," said Bronner, who

was removed from his home along with his family at the age of 17.

Don Duplechein, who served in the U.S. Army's 567th Ambulance Company

during World War II, also spoke to students Friday. He described the

scene as he and about 30 other troops arrived at the Nazis' Dachau death

camp at the end of the war.

"You couldn't believe it. When we arrived we saw people begging for

food with lice all over their heads. We knew we had to feed and bathe

these people," Duplechein said.

To a small group of students who gathered after the presentation,

Bronner spoke in more detail about his experiences in the concentration

camp.

"A lot of people think that children were held at the camps, but the

truth is that in a lot of the camps the children were killed and the only

ones allowed to live were young people and adults," he said.

Danny Screws, 17-year-old Burbank junior, said it was difficult to

believe that nobody was willing to act to stop what was happening.

"I asked him [Bronner] how the government could let the people be

treated that way. He told me that, although they were from Hungary, they

were still Jews. I think that was wrong," Screws said.

Bronner described traveling to the concentration camp by train with

hundreds of people piled into a single boxcar, barely able to move or

breath. He talked about the horrible living conditions at the camps where

thousands of people died from starvation and disease.

"I remember trying to find my father's body as he was put on a

horse-drawn carriage. I couldn't find him to say goodbye because of all

the bodies piled up," said Bronner, whose father died at Bergen-Belsen.

Bronner was asked if he hated the Nazis for what they did to his

family.

"You know, a student once asked me what I would do if the people that

killed my parents walked through the door. I told the student that

killing the person wouldn't bring my parents back and it would make me a

killer. You have to forgive, but never forget," he said.

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