Gannon University will host Margit Meissner, a Holocaust survivor, as she shares her story of how she overcame a truly horrific experience 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Yehl Ballroom.
Her visit is made possible by the History Club and Jeffrey Bloodworth, Ph.D., program director and associate professor for the history department.
According to Erika Ramalho, director of Community and Government Relations, it is largely due to Bloodworth’s efforts that Meissner’s visit is possible. With the help of Gannon’s Erie-GAINS, Meissner will also visit several Erie high schools.
Bloodworth, who teaches a Comparative Genocide class at Gannon, has a fellowship at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. As part of that fellowship, he is eligible to bring people and Holocaust survivors to campus. Bloodworth also happened to meet Meissner.
According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website, Meissner was born on Feb. 26, 1922, in Innsbruck, Austria, to parents Gottlieb and Lilly Morawetz. In 1938, after Austria fell to the Nazi regime, Lilly Morawetz sent Meissner to Paris to keep her safe.
However danger followed her to France and she was forced to flee the only way she could: on a bicycle. During her talk at Gannon, Meissner will discuss her book, “Margit’s Story,” as well as her escape and how she rescued her mother from a detention camp.
Meissner will visit not only Gannon, but several other schools in Erie. According to Ramalho, Erie-GAINS conducted an outreach to public and private schools, first targeting the ones that serve pupils from theErie-GAINS neighborhood.
Ramalho said Meissner’s visit will benefit students by giving them an opportunity to hear real-life stories of a Holocaust survivor.
“This is an opportunity for students to hear, first-hand, a story most will only ever read about in history books,” Ramalho said. “Bringing opportunities to the high schools they typically would not have access to is meeting a need and investing, as a community, in the students.”
Even though Meissner is 91 years old, Bloodworth said she is still “delightful and full of life.” He also stressed the importance of visits from Holocaust survivors because it may never happen again.
“Many of the survivors that are left are not well to travel,” Bloodworth said. “In two or three years, there may not be any left, so it’s their last opportunity.”
Ian Van Dyke, a senior history major, said while he has met two other Holocaust survivors during his time at Gannon, it’s always an unbelievable experience.
“It’s always a surreal experience and you can’t help to compare yourself to them, wondering if you could endure what they had to go through,” Van Dyke said. “No amount of learning from secondary sources can substitute for the words of someone who lived through the events.”
According to Jennifer Amann, a junior history and political science double major and president of history club, the history department is also hoping to bring a “Nazi Medicine” exhibit to Gannon, but there is a year-long waiting list for the exhibit.
Meissner will also be visiting Villa Maria Academy on Wednesday, Cathedral Prep Thursday and Harbor Creek Senior High School at 1:10 p.m. Friday.
The event, which is sponsored by Gannon’s Activities Planning Board and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, is free and open to the public.