Holocaust survivor speaks at Thomas County Middle School

Holocaust survivor George Rishfeld shared his story with students of Thomas County Middle School yesterday. 

George Rishfeld – originally named Jureck – was born in Warsaw, Poland, to Richard Rishfeld and Lucy Trainowitz Rishfeld. George was just six-months-old in September 1939 when World War II began with the German invasion of Poland. 

George and his parents fled to Vilna, Lithuania, where hoped they would be safe. The German army occupied Vilna in June 1941 and life for Jews in Vilna changed immediately. The Nazis and their Lithuanian collaborators formed mobile killing squads which murdered thousands of Jews in the Ponary forest outside the city. They also established two closed ghettos in the city, one for Jews considered suitable for forced-labor and one for Jews deemed not capable of work. That ghetto was liquidated a month later. Residents of the first ghetto were often hungry and conditions were unsanitary, especially during winter. 

As conditions in the ghetto worsened and deportations to killing centers and concentration camps continued, George’s parents decided that it was necessary to find a way to save their young son. Mr. Fronckvics, a former employee and family friend of George’s father, agreed to care for George until the war ended. Mr. Fronckvics promised that he, his wife, and his daughter, Halinka, would raise George as their own son.

They fulfilled their promise.

A lot of people think that it was a Hollywood myth, that the Holocaust never happened. I feel like I was saved to be a witness to the fact that it really did happen," -- George Rishfeld

The program at the middle school was part of the Commission's speaker program series. Schools and communities in Georgia can request a speaker online for audiences of 75 and above.