Three Wis. sisters share the importance of teaching the Holocaust

Published: Nov. 13, 2018 at 9:42 PM CST
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Three Wisconsin sisters share the story of their grandmother, a Holocaust victim, who suffered a tragic ending to her life at a concentration camp. The presentation at Neville Public Museum Tuesday in Green Bay brought in dozens of people. The sisters hope their family history will help shed light on the importance of Holocaust education.

Sisters Debbie Simon-Konkol, Joannie Simon-Weinberg and Chris Simon-Halverson believed their grandmother, Alice Simon, was murdered by Nazis at Auschwitz Concentration Camp.

"We thought she had died at Auschwitz. We had records that showed it. The reality was she had been shipped out of Auschwitz to an even more gruesome death," said Simon-Konkol.

Alice Simon was killed days after transferring out of Auschwitz in a gas chamber so her body could be a subject in a Jewish skeleton museum.

"An anatomy professor decided he wanted a Jewish skeleton museum to show the inferiority of the Jewish people, and my grandmother was one of the 86 people murdered for that museum, which actually never did happen," said Simon-Konkol.

Simon-Konkol says her grandmother's story needs to be shared, because it can help decrease anti-Semitism in the country. She addressed recent events, like the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh and the viral picture of Baraboo High School students, which claims to be innocent, but appeared similar to a Nazi salute.

"With the recent rise of anti-Semitism in the world and in our country and in our state, we feel very strongly that we want to get the word out, that the Holocaust really did happen," Simon-Konkol says.

"Especially in light of the recent events that we've had. To me, it's just so important that we do things like this in the museum, that we bring in people who have these direct connections to the historical things that happened," said Ryan Swadley, museum educator for Green Bay’s Neville Public Museum.

The sisters are also advocates for civil rights. Their father, the son of Alice Simon, is late Presbyterian Reverend Carl Simon, who marched with Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, Alabama.

"We must learn from the past but not dwell on it. We must take from the past the knowledge of what horrible things can happen if we aren't careful, if we aren't respectful of all human beings and life,” adds Simon-Konkol.