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Holocaust survivor shares his personal story with the HHS community

Apr 25, 2023


On Wednesday, April 19, many minds of HHS students as well as the greater Hopkins community were impacted. Sam Badzin, senior, with support from members of the HHS chapter of the Jewish Student Union (JSU) as well as administration and staff, worked collaboratively to offer a once-in-a-lifetime experience. 

Manny Gabler, a Holocaust survivor, has shared his story numerous times across Minnesota, specifically in schools with a mission to ensure that history is never forgotten. 

Gabler’s parents fled Nazi Germany when his mother was pregnant with his younger brother in order to escape the horrors of the ongoing genocide. Born a refugee, Gabler and his brother grew up in Shanghai. 

“One of my favorite moments occurred when Manny finished speaking, and everyone gave him a standing ovation,” Badzin said. “It showed how engaged the audience was and that his story impacted the students in the room.”

Throughout the past year, Badzin has been working as a member of the StandWithUs High School Internship Program. With this group, he has attended two conferences in California where he was given the opportunity to view programs that past students had curated, one of them being a speech delivered by a Holocaust survivor at their school. 

“Since that day, it has been a goal of mine to bring a survivor to HHS,” Badzin said. “I’ve also had the experience of hearing a Holocaust survivor speak before and constantly remember how impactful it was for me to this day. I wanted to give other HHS students that same opportunity.”

The process to find Gabler began in February. With the goal of finding a survivor who lives in Minnesota, to avoid travel, Badzin reached out to over five different organizations but was unable to find a survivor willing to speak.

Later on through a referral given by a family friend, President of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota (JCRC) Steve Hunegs and Susie Greenberg introduced Badzin to Gabler.

After Gabler agreed to speak, Badzin worked alongside Lisa Thao, associate principal, and Rick Rexroth, social studies teacher, to coordinate the physical event at HHS. They set a date, emailed sign-up sheets to HHS students, and even contacted local news networks to broaden the coverage of this event.

“I was nervous that people wouldn’t come and he was going to speak to an empty auditorium, but I was really happy to see the full crowd in the auditorium,” Badzin said.

With nearly 700 audience members made up of HHS students, staff and community members, along with the Fox 9 news outlet, Gabler shared his incredible story of survival.

“I hope that the HHS students will remember and cherish Manny’s story for many years to come,” Badzin said. “Most of us will likely never hear a Holocaust survivor speak again because fewer and fewer are able to speak as they age. I hope that when anyone who was in that room hears someone say the Holocaust never happened they can combat that remark with the fact that they listened to a survivor tell his story.”

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