‘If you respect, you don’t hate’: Holocaust survivor shares story with Ridgeline High School sophomores

SPOKANE, Wash. — The Anti-Defamation League says violence towards Jewish people reached an all-time high in 2021. This year could be shaping up to have more of the same look.

Children and teens are most likely seeing or hearing more about antisemitism incidents these days. On Tuesday, hundreds of Ridgeline High School students received a first account of the Holocaust.

“I think one of the biggest takeaways for me was that no matter what happens, you can push through that there is good in people, and just like you just need to focus on that,” sophomore Jane Ditto said.

Carla Peperzak turned 99 years old in October and is using her personal experience to educate people. As a teen, she fought to survive an absolutely horrific and dark time in history.

The room was full of sophomores who are likely the last generation to hear directly from a Holocaust survivor like Peperzak.

Peperzak was around the age of the sophomores when Nazi Germany invaded her Amsterdam community in 1940. Though for many years Peperzak did not speak of her experience, she now uses it to make sure it never happens again.

“I’m worried about a dark situation because I do think that brings out the hate in people somehow, I don’t quite know how the combination but so many young people also seem to hate each other. You can say hate is the opposite of love and that’s sometimes very difficult, and the hate is something we have to get out of, that’s why I talk about respect. If you respect you don’t hate,” she said.

The Nazi government required Jewish people to have a “J” on their I.D. and they were also required to wear the star of David on their clothing so they could be identified.

Peperzak managed to get her “J” removed from her I.D. and get out of having to wear the star.

“That made a tremendous difference. I’m sure that’s why I’m sitting here. At the very beginning it was okay, but we didn’t think it was going to be so terrible but eventually not having the star meant you could live, and having the star meant basically a death sentence,” she said.

Peperzak also forged ID’s for other Jews and helped them hide from the Nazis. She even disguised herself in as a German nurse and was able to rescue her younger cousin from a train.

While she survived the Holocaust, about 20 of her extended family members did not, and millions of innocent lives were lost.

“The main thing for me is that they know about the Holocaust that they will be aware and that it won’t happen again. That’s fairly important to me,” Peperzak said.

Peperzak also spoke about how Germany was a highly cultural society before the Nazi government.

READ: Spokane woman honored for life-saving resistance work during World War II