Estelle Laughlin will share her story of how she and her family survived the Holocaust during a lecture on Wednesday, March 14 at Conway Senior High School.
"An Evening with Holocaust Survivor Estelle Laughlin" will begin at 7 p.m. in the James H. Clark Auditorium. Admission is free and open to the public. The event is sponsored by Conway Senior High School, UCA Department of Philosophy and Religion, UCA Department of History, UCA College of Liberal Arts, University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton, and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
It is important for the public to hear Holocaust survivors' testimonies in order to gain a deeper and richer understanding of European life during World War II, said Phillip Spivey, philosophy and religion lecturer at the University of Central Arkansas.
"The most important benefit for the public is a raising of awareness of acts of genocide today," Spivey said. "Rather than study what happened on television and in books, the public now has an opportunity to interact with those who have suffered and survived the worst human tragedies, genocide."
Estelle Laughlin was born in Warsaw, Poland, on July 9, 1929 to Michla and Samek Wakszlak. Germany invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939. The siege on Warsaw began a week after German forces invaded Poland. On Sept. 29, 1939 shortly after Poland's surrender, German forces entered Warsaw.
In October 1940, German forces decreed the establishment of a ghetto. The Wakszlak family and more than 400,000 Jews from the city and surrounding areas were forced to live in a 1.3 square mile area and to wear a white armband with a blue Star of David..
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. The bunker where Estelle and her family were hiding, which was in the basement of a house, was exposed by a bomb. The Wakszlak family was marched to the umschlagplatz (concentration point), forced to board freight train cars, and transported to Majdanek.
Estelle, Michla, and her sister, Freda, were chosen for forced labor but Samek was sent to the gas chamber. They were later sent to the Skarzysko concentration camp to work in a munitions factory then to the Czestochowa concentration camp to work in a different munitions factory.
Soviet forces liberated Czestochowa in January 1945. The three women moved to Bavaria in August 1945 and lived there until 1947, when they moved to the United States to join Michla's two sisters and brother in New York City.
Estelle lives in the Washington, DC area and is a volunteer at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Information about Estelle Laughlin provided by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.