History of a Holocaust Survivor: The Life of Steve Berger
Authored by Ashley Walker
Steve Berger is a Holocaust survivor that was born and raised in Debrecen, Hungary. In the year 1941, Jews comprised 7.3 percent of the population (Shoah Resource Center n.d.). Growing up as a Jew in Hungary, Berger has always been aware of Antisemitism. The Jewish population was separated from the rest of the population through the numerus clausus. In fact, as Berger points out, Hungary was the first country after WWI to institute the numerus clauses in universities (Berger 2017). The numerus clauses were passed, “limiting the number of Jews in institutions of higher education” (Kenez 2001). Additionally, Jewish men were removed from the Hungarian army, instead pushed into the labor services. This further separated the Jewish people from the remainder of the population.
Steve Berger recalls how the Jews were first moved into ghettos, and then, from there into concentration camps. Berger was sent to Strasshof, one of two locations Jews from Debrecen were sent to, the other being Auschwitz (JewishGen, n.d.). Had Berger been a part of the transport to Auschwitz, things would have been direr as over half a million Hungarian Jews were killed in the summer of 1944 (Berger 2017). This is not to say that Jews did not die at Strasshof, as they most certainly did.
Berger remained in Strasshof, at the labor camp for a year. He was then liberated by the Russians in April of 1945. From there, he journeyed back to his town before leaving Hungary and never returned. His parting message to us is a reminder that the horrors he faced still exist. Genocides are still occurring today, all over the world. One area that immediately comes to mind is Sudan, where hundreds of thousands have been killed or displaced (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, n.d.). Anti-Semitism is also still around. As recently as 2014, a survey completed by the Anti-Defamation League shows that nine percent of Americans hold anti-Semitic views (ADL Global 100, n.d.). While this survey was completed by 1,000 people, that percentage would mean 21 million people hold these views.
What can we take from Steve Berger’s experiences? Tear down the divisions between races. Move forward together as one, educate ourselves on diversity. Be informed.
ADL Global 100. n.d. “The ADL GLOBAL 100: An Index of Anti-Semitism.” 00. Accessed March 18, 2018. http://global100.adl.org/#country/usa/2014.
JewishGen. n.d. “Jews in Debrecen in 1945.” Accessed March 18, 2018. https://www.jewishgen.org/databases/holocaust/0008_Debrecen.html.
Kenez, Peter. 2001. “Antisemitism in Post World War II Hungary.” Judaism 50, no. 2: 144. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed March 18, 2018).
Shoah Resource Center, The International School for Holocaust Studies. n.d. “Debrecen”. Accessed March 18, 2018. http://www.yadvashem.org/odot_pdf/microsoft%20word%20-%20185.pdf.
Steve Berger Interview. 2017. Holocaust Museum and Tolerance Center. Personal Interview.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. n.d. “Violence.” n.d. Accessed March 18, 2018. https://www.ushmm.org/confront-genocide/cases/sudan/sudan-violence.