Friday, September 30, 2016

Terese Jurgensen ~ Director of Student Services ~ September 30, 2016

Terese Jurgensen & Alicia Martin met Max Garcia
this summer during the Social Thinking Conference

"Children are our History's Future"
~Max Garcia

Max Garcia presented at Howard-Winneshiek Community Schools on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. One teacher told Max after he presented to the 6th-8th grade students, "You have changed our school forever!" Max's words were indeed powerful, passionate and pointed. I would like to share some of his words, here, in my weekly update, so that Max's words may resonate with our readers across the world. The excerpts below are taken from a speech that Max gave on May 12, 2012 at the location of the camp he was liberated from KZ Ebensee, Austria. These are the same stories he shared with us in Cresco. 

"Listen to your parents because they have had to learn lessons that they can hand to you." 

I am a Dutch Sephardic Jew. I have traveled here today from San Francisco, California, where I have made my home since after World War II. My younger sister, Sipporah, her nickname was "Sienie" had just celebrated her 16th birthday on November 24th, 1942, when a few days later she was picked up by the Nazi occupiers of Holland and sent to transit Camp Westerbork. A few days later, she was taken to KZ Auschwitz-Birkenau where she was gassed to death, murdered. When we learned of my sister's death, my mother tried to throw herself out of the window of our second floor apartment. My parent's were murdered, gassed, Destruction Camp Sobibor in Eastern Poland, on my mother's birthday, July 16, 1943. 

As Max relayed his story in two parts: the first his life as a boy prior to Nazi occupation of Holland and the second part his story of Auschwitz and the liberation, one could hear a pin drop in the high school auditorium as the students sat in rapt attention. Max, at times became quite passionate as his voice encouraged, indeed mandated our students to live a life full of promise and possibilities - to make their lives count. 

"To Live is to Take Risk!" 
 "It is an Exercise of Wanting to Live!"

"After the loss of my sister, my father thought it prudent that I should go into hiding, and he found a place for me through the underground in Amsterdam. I went into hiding, I was 18 years old. Hiding for me meant I was no longer allowed to wear shoes, only slippers. I could not go near a window or move about. When the lady of the house left, I could not flush a toilet and the only time I was let out of the apartment was to get my picture taken for a false ID card."

"You can't help who you are born like!"

When Max was discovered by the Nazi's and taken to Auschwitz, the terror that he shared as he was arrested, beaten and shipped in a cattle car was palpable. What amazed me the most, that through it all, Max's grit, perseverance and will to live was catalyst to his survival. It was this message, that our students, our community and the world need to hear today. Here is what happened when he arrived at Auschwitz. 

"I don't know how long we had been standing in that packed boxcar but about 4:30 a.m. all the doors were unlocked at the same time exposing the brightly lit platform area with a lot of men in striped outfits rushing about. There was a tremendous commotion and barking dogs. We men were separated from the women. Children stayed with their mothers. We were told to leave our baggage in the boxcars and to line up in rows of five."

"Since the age of 14, I had dreamt of 
becoming an architect."

In all your endeavors Lady Luck can play a great role. Take advantages of those opportunities." 

"At the front of our line-up was a small table behind which sat people in German uniforms who decided our destiny by flipping a thumb either to the left or right. Those of us who had been chosen to stay alive were taken to a two-story wooden barrack where we were told to remove all of our clothes except for our shoes and belt. Everything was thrown onto a heap in one corner of the room and each of us was handed a card on which we were ordered to write our name, the street we had lived on, our birthday and what our profession was. I wrote the word, carpenter, because I wanted to some day be an architect. After this, a number was tattooed on our left forearm. Mine was 139829."

Max Garcia also presented to Cresco and surrounding communities on Tuesday
evening at the Cresco Theater/Opera House. The theater was packed to overflowing!
Max's story is amazing in that his life was spared amazingly over the course of his years in the horrific death camp of Auschwitz. One of the most incredible stories Max shares involves getting a surgery, (although it was experimental) in Auschwitz that actually saved his life. 

"I began having severe pains in my belly. For the next 4 days I was back and forth to the clinic where they basically gave me two aspirins and a note excusing me from work duty. Finally, the following Monday, I was back at the clinic. The doctor, a fellow prisoner, looked at me and said, "Are you still here?" He picked up the telephone and called the SS doctor on duty and told him, "I have a Jewish boy here who has a 4 1/2 day acute appendicitis that can burst any moment, what do I do?" The doctor, replied, "Get him to the operating room. I'll be right over." 

Max was operated on by the SS Doctor for the sole purpose of him being able to see what the inside of a person looked like with an acute appendicitis "in color." While Max was used as an experiment, the good news is that it saved his life! The healing process was very slow, painful and difficult, but Max made up his mind that he was going to live! He was in fact one of 10% of the people who survived the death camp! One part of his message clearly stated that no one died in the death camps across Europe put there by the Nazi's. Each of them were murdered! 

Jack Thomson and Max Garcia sharing stories about World War II
This is a precious photo of men who have lived well and contributed to the world!
"On Sunday, May 13th, 1945, all citizens of Ebensee, children included, were ordered to visit Camp Ebensee so they would be able to see for themselves the dreadful situation. All women and girls of Ebensee were ordered to go back to the Camp and scrub and clean all barracks thoroughly and all men and boys of Ebensee were ordered to the US Army's Chief Medical Officer to help move all the corpses lying about the Camp to the ditch that had been dug along the road that connected Ebensee to Bad Ischl, along the Traun River. General George S. Patton, Jr. ordered this so the citizens of Ebensee will always know what had happened in their part of town." I have been a free man ever since.                                                                                                              
"Do not blindly follow fanatical thinkers who will feed on your fears to promise you everything!"

"When I was young, living in Amsterdam, my father insisted that I should learn some English; I resented his intrusions, but I did learn some English. When the tanks rolled into KZ Ebenzee to free the prisoners, I saw a man pull out a pack of cigarettes that I recognized from my days of learning English. Seizing the opportunity, I shouted to him the words that led to the luckiest break of my life, "It's been a long time since I have had a Lucky Strike!" The soldier asked me if I spoke English, and I said "yes." I became the translator for this American Army troop. I was under the care and protection of the United States Army." 

Max listens carefully to questions and shares his thoughts

News Channels KIMT and KTTC had excellent articles/news stories on Max's visit to Howard-Winneshiek CSD. You can see them here:

As for me, my life is changed forever. I loved having Max Garcia share with the students and community of Cresco. We could not have done this without the generous donation from the Howard-Winneshiek Community School Foundation, the Historical Society of Howard County and the amazing volunteers who made this happen. A deep thank you to all of you who made this happen!

Howard-Winneshiek Community School Foundation provided
the funds to bring Max to Cresco!

Max kept warm during his presentations with a Crestwood Blanket ~ when he
left San Francisco, it was almost 100 degrees!  Iowa was cold!


Have a great week! 

If you need anything, please do not 

hesitate to reach out to me!

Terese Jurgensen

(563) 929-6344

Thank you, Max Garcia!!!!!

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