?Love, communication and unconditional acceptance are a few keys to peace and respect, Holocaust survivor Eva Olsson shared during a talk at the Barrie Campus on March 27. She co-presented with her son Jan, a Georgian teacher, as part of the college’s Respect Speaker Series – Respect and Inclusion.Almost everyone in Olsson’s family was killed during Adolph Hitler’s campaign to exterminate Jewish people during the Second World War. In 1944, she and her family members were taken by boxcars “to work at a brick factory.” When they arrived, they found out it was actually “a killing factory.” They had arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau.
The Nazis immediately murdered all children under the age of 15. Others were divided into two groups – some were sent to concentration camps to work and starve, while the rest were killed. Olsson and her younger sister ended up at a camp in Bergen-Belsen as slave labourers. They were there for a year, before being liberated by British and Canadian soldiers.
Eva spoke about her “50 years of silence” about her experiences during the Holocaust. While those years did nothing to heal the pain, she has been healing by talking about what happened. Since 1996, Olsson has been speaking about her life and has visited more than 2,000 schools, churches, conferences, colleges and universities and has spoken to more than one-and-a-half million people throughout Canada. She hopes people who hear her story will know that it is possible to survive the worst that life has to throw at them.
“Don’t be afraid to look inside yourself,” she told the audience. “You will find something beautiful there.”