Son of two Holocaust survivors, Tom Glaser shared history

“My father often said the Germans might win the battle, but he would win the war.”

Eighty-two years ago, the Holocaust claimed the lives of eleven million people, six million of whom were Jewish, and the impacts of the antisemitism rooted in this mass genocide continue to echo today. To honor Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is recognized annually on Jan. 27, SPA welcomed Tom Glaser, grandfather of Raven Glaser ‘25, during X-Period on Monday to share his experiences as the son of Holocaust survivors.

“Raven, her family, and Madam Kerman were instrumental in planning the event. Mishpacha’s role was not to organize, but really just to advertise and amplify. Community members have gone to our Hanukkah parties and know us as a group, so it meant a lot to us to spread the word of this event to the community and get up on stage and use that platform to show that it would be an act of Jewish allyship to go hear the speaker and understand their story,” Mishpacha co-leader Becca Richman said.

My father often said the Germans might win the battle, but he would win the war.”

— Tom Glaser

Holocaust Remembrance Day marks the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi Concentration camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau by Soviet troops in 1945, and the United Nations General Assembly officially proclaimed the date in 2005. This day marks a time to honor victims and survivors and acknowledge the multi-generational trauma caused by the event.

With antisemitism on the rise, leaders of Mishpacha, SPA’s Jewish affinity group, hoped that promoting the event would convey the importance of amplifying Jewish voices and the role that education and awareness of the Holocaust has in preventing the continuation of similar prejudice and genocide.

A legacy of trauma

Students and faculty members gathered in the Driscoll commons for Glaser’s presentation, which focused on his parents’ traumatic experiences between 1941-1945 and his own reflections on how the Holocaust was an unwavering presence in the background of his childhood and family life. Glaser described how his parents were among only 135 survivors of the 5,000 Jewish people taken from Prague to the Lodz Ghetto in Poland and detailed the severity of the torture, abuse, fear, illness, and horrific conditions that Jewish people faced during this time.

Glaser expressed that while speaking in front of the group was out of his comfort zone, he believes in the necessity of bringing attention to Holocaust experiences like those of his family.

“I feel like I need to do what my father would do if he was still alive and telling my family story so that this part of history is never forgotten. As the saying goes, ‘never again.’” He said, “The fact of the matter is it’s not a pretty story, but there’s one good thing: my parents survived, and I am here to tell the story of my parents and relatives who I unfortunately never got the chance to know and love.”

A story of liberation

Among many other powerful anecdotes, Glaser described his father’s liberation in great detail. On April 30th, 1945, when his father was liberated, survivors of the Holocaust were met by American soldiers who were shocked by the state of their starvation. The soldiers offered the food they had on them, and many survivors eagerly accepted. Glaser’s father was one of the few who declined and encouraged others to do the same. Eventually, many of those who consumed the food unexpectedly passed away due to a condition that would later be known as refeeding syndrome. When a person goes through an extended period of starvation and food is reintroduced too quickly, it can cause serious and life-threatening complications, however, this phenomenon was not widely known until after World War II. Glaser described how retelling this experience was always a difficult task for his father; he had watched his fellow survivors live through the unimaginable, but they would not live on to experience their freedom.

Remembering history, not repeating it

Following Glaser’s retelling of his traumatic family story, many hope the experience will result in reflections on antisemitism and opportunities to dive deeper into education about the Holocaust and its ever-present impact.

“I hope that people were shocked and taken aback, and I hope they understood that there was a real tangible human impact and there continues to be, not only on Jews. The Holocaust wasn’t something that just happened, it was a change in the way we understand the world and how we understand how terrible people can be to each other,” Richman said. “We are taught the Holocaust as if it is not a living, breathing thing impacting life today, and I hope people now realize that it is.”

After his presentation, Glaser hosted a Q&A session during tutorial and visited the World Religion classes on Tuesday.