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Holocaust survivor highlights importance of fostering positivity

Collegian | Cait Mckinzie
Esther Basch, a Holocaust survivor, talks about her last day in school at the Evening With a Holocaust Survivor event Feb. 21. “I went to school (the) next day, and the teacher saw my yellow Star of David (and) threw me out,” Basch said. “She said, ‘You dirty Jew, you’re not allowed to have any higher education.’ And I didn’t even finish my eighth grade. I was thrown out of school.”

The audience quieted as Esther Basch took her seat in front of the microphone for what could be one of the last times. Despite being on Colorado State University’s campus for the first time, Basch claimed that because she is 96 years old, this would be her last tour for the foreseeable future.

Hosted by Students for Holocaust Awareness, Holocaust Awareness Week is an annual seven-day event at CSU co-sponsored by the Associated Students of CSU, the Residence Hall Association, the Lory Student Center, Chabad Jewish Student Organization, CSU Hillel, Sigma Alpha Epsilon Pi, Alpha Epsilon Pi, the Advisory Council on Jewish Inclusion and International Programs.


As the largest Holocaust awareness event in Colorado as well as some neighboring states, it is estimated that around 2,000 people are hosted by CSU during Holocaust Awareness Week, Rabbi Yerachmiel Gorelik said. This event is so popular not only due to Basch’s inspiring story but also because her message is something that everyone can heed, no matter their religion or race. 

“Every human being needs to hear that message because everyone struggles with their own darkness, and who better to share that message of hope and unity and love than someone who survived a concentration camp?” Gorelik said.

The main event of Holocaust Awareness Week was Basch’s presentation, Evening With a Holocaust Survivor, in which she spoke about her experience living through one of the largest genocides in history. Despite the hardship she has been through, Basch uses her voice to emphasize the importance of remaining positive throughout life.

“The fact that she is still going on, she is still alive, she’s still strong and powerful, … it’s an honor and a privilege to see that these people have taken back their lives after such a horrific event.” –Lauren Maskus, Students for Holocaust Awareness president

“These Holocaust survivors who have been through absolute hell on Earth are such positive people full of light and full of inspiration and full of hope, and that’s really what this message is all about,” Gorelik said.

Rachel Basch Turet, Basch’s daughter, said because of her mother’s strong mindset and positivity, she has never heard someone complain about her mother. It is Basch’s core beliefs that are responsible for her friendly, welcoming demeanor. 

“My motto is to believe in God, to think positive,” Basch said. “Forgive and love God, and you’ll have a happy life.”

Although people come from all over to see them, it is not just the audience that enjoys interacting with the mother-daughter pair; Basch and Turet are also passionate about connecting with their audience. 

“The students — they just warm my heart, the way they listen to me and the way they react and ask the most intelligent questions, and that makes me feel very, very good,” Basch said.

In addition to being passionate about speaking to younger generations, Turet also touched on the importance of students’ capabilities in creating the future.


“It’s fun to talk to students, and they’re our next leaders,” Turet said. “They’re the decision makers of the future, so we’re trying to let them all know that we can’t let this happen again.”

President of Students for Holocaust Awareness Lauren Maskus touched on the cruciality of utilizing Holocaust Awareness Week as an educational opportunity. 

“There’s a very common misconception that all Jews died in the Holocaust when that is wrong,” Maskus said. “We’re still here. We’re still alive. And it’s a way of just bringing knowledge to people.”

It is this importance of educating others that is the reason Basch and Turet are in the process of creating a documentary, which people can contribute to by donating at All funds will go to the creation of the film.

Instead of focusing on the morbid events of the time like most other Holocaust films, Basch’s documentary will be centered on spreading her message of positivity. 

“The fact that she is still going on, she is still alive, she’s still strong and powerful, … it’s an honor and a privilege to see that these people have taken back their lives after such a horrific event,” Maskus said.

Reach McKenna Van Voris at or on Twitter @mckenna_vv.

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