Holocaust Survivor Estelle Laughlin to Speak at Viterbo University March 22
March 8, 2018
Contact Rick Kyte at 608-796-3704 or firstname.lastname@example.org
HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR ESTELLE LAUGHLIN TO SPEAK AT VITERBO UNIVERSITY MARCH 22
LA CROSSE, Wis. – Holocaust survivor Estelle Laughlin will share her incredible story at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 22 in the Viterbo University Fine Arts Center Main Theatre.
Ten-year-old Laughlin lived in Warsaw with her older sister Freda and parents, Michla and Samek Wakszlak, when Germany invaded Poland in 1939. The Wakszlak family and 400,000 other Jews from the city and surrounding areas would eventually be forced to live in a 1.3 square mile ghetto in the city. The food allotments rationed to the ghetto by the German authorities were not sufficient to sustain life, but Samek was able to get extra food for his family from the black market. From July to September 1942, 300,000 ghetto residents were deported to Treblinka II, an extermination camp. During this time Estelle and her family hid in a secret room to escape the deportations.
In April 1943, German forces made one last push to liquidate the remaining 55,000-60,000 Jews from the Warsaw ghetto to work or death camps. Samek, who helped to organize the resistance movement, built a bunker in which he and his family could hide during the Warsaw ghetto uprising. As SS and police units began roundups they were met with fire from resistance fighters. In retaliation, the SS began razing the ghetto, block by block. The bunker where Estelle and her family were hiding, which was in the basement of a house, was exposed by a bomb. Everyone was dragged out onto the street. The Wakszlak were forced to board freight train cars and were transported to Lublin/Majdanek.
Upon arrival at Majdanek, Estelle, Michla, and Freda were chosen for forced labor but Samek was sent to the gas chamber. At one point, Freda was badly beaten by a German guard and could not work. She hid in the barracks, but was discovered. Her name was put on what she thought was a gas chamber list. Estelle and Michla switched places with two women who were on the same list, thus believing that the remaining Wakszlak family members could die together. Michla, Estelle, and Freda were, instead, sent to the Skarzysko concentration camp to work in a munitions factory. Later, they would be sent to the Czestochowa concentration camp to work in a different munitions factory. The camp was liberated by Soviet forces in January 1945.
The three women moved to Bavaria in August 1945 and lived there until 1947, when they moved to the U.S. to join Michla’s two sisters and brother in New York City. Estelle is a volunteer at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
This lecture is part of the annual Teaching the Holocaust Workshop at Viterbo. The lecture is free and open to the public. No reservations required, but seating is limited.