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Local

Nazi Holocaust camps brought to life at Morris high school

MORRIS – Steen Metz was only 8 years old when his family was arrested and taken to Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust.

Metz, now 79, was liberated after 18 months at the camp.

He talked with audience members Sunday about his experience during a question and answer session at Morris Community High School. The session was held after the school’s performance of “Letters to Sala,” a play telling the story of a young Jewish girl who survived a Nazi camp.

In his novel “A Danish Boy in Theresienstadt: Reflections of a Holocaust Survivor,” Metz refers to his time in captivity as “18 months in hell.”

“The hardest memory was the passing of my father. He died in the camp; that’s unforgivable,” Metz said. “You don’t forget, you don’t forgive as far as I’m concerned.”

Metz said his dad lost 50 percent of his body weight while laboring at the camp.

The survivor said it was difficult to keep faith in God at the time, but he couldn’t give up and kept going one day at a time.

“From the time we were arrested, I was very frightened. It seemed to go on forever,” Metz said. “When we were liberated, that was the happiest day of my life.”

Metz spoke to audience members after the presentation of “Letters to Sala,” which brought horror stories from Nazi labor camps to life in the Morris Community High School auditorium.

The play, written by Arlene Hutton, is based on the true story of a young Jewish girl, Sala, who went to a Nazi labor camp at 16 years old in place of her sick sister.

In one scene, Sala and other young Jewish girls screamed at the top of their lungs as two of their own were taken by Nazi officers to either be beaten, raped or killed.

“When the girls were lined up, something bad would happen. You don’t know who’s going to get taken and fear is the ultimate emotion,” said 18-year-old senior Haleigh Zorn, who played the role of young Sala. “I’m glad we could portray that so it doesn’t
happen again. Something like this can’t be repeated.”

In 2005, Sala underwent bypass surgery and handed her daughter letters she had written during her captivity in the labor camp.

She turned 90 this year and is married to Sidney Kirschner.

“Letters to Sala” had two other showings, on Thursday and Friday, and more than 1,000 people attended the play altogether.

Play director Andrea Gustafson said it was an honor to have Metz speak at Morris Community High School.

“I wanted not only the students but the community to hear someone who survived firsthand. That makes it that more rich,” Gustafson said. “In 10 years, there won’t be any more Holocaust survivors.”

The Community Foundation of Grundy County sponsored Metz to speak at the play.

Metz said he wants students and others to remember there was a Holocaust and that there are a number of people today denying the Holocaust took place.

“It means a lot to me when you get a reception like today,” Metz said, who is happily married to Eileen Metz. “It’s my passion. The Q&A afterward makes it worthwhile.”

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