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Holocaust survivor asks students for continued support of Israel

February 25, 2014 : By Joshua Tiprigan/Liberty University News Service

Irving Roth speaks at Liberty University Convocation on Feb. 24, 2014.

Holocaust survivor Irving Roth spoke to Liberty University students during Convocation on Monday, Feb. 24, giving them a glimpse of his life’s journey. Roth, a native of the former state of Czechoslovakia, shared memories of his time under Nazi oppression and expressed the necessity for American students to support the nation of Israel and battle anti-Semitism.

Roth warned students that the Holocaust started gradually, as civil liberties, like visiting parks or attending school, were stripped from the Jews one at a time until Nazi occupiers grew more brutal.

“From June of 1941 to December of 1941, half a million Jews were murdered by squads with machine guns,” he said.

As the Holocaust and World War II escalated, Roth explained how the Nazi leadership tried to find a more efficient way to exterminate the Jewish race (there were about 11 million Jews living in Europe at that time).

“The scientists, the chemists, the transportation experts, the military leaders (met) for a single agenda: How to get rid of all the Jews in Europe inexpensively and quickly. Euphemistically, the final solution to the Jewish question.”

As a boy, Roth watched 1,800 of the 2,000 Jews from his hometown pushed onto trains en route to death camps on a Friday night in 1942.

When the Americans took Italy in 1943 and the Russian front began to deteriorate, with Soviet troops pushing into German-occupied Poland and Romania, Roth assumed his troubles were over, but he was shipped to Auschwitz in 1944 at age 15.

“After three days on the train, I arrived in Auschwitz,” Roth said. “When I jumped off the train it was nighttime. I looked around and saw guards with submachine guns and dogs telling us to get out. In the distance, (there were) flames coming out of chimneys.”

Roth was later transferred from the infamous death camp to the Buchenwald concentration camp, where he was eventually freed after a successful American airstrike allowed the allied forces to enter the camp.

While the horrors of the Holocaust are in the past, Roth warned students that anti-Semitism still runs rampant today. He praised groups like Christians United for Israel and Liberty University for supporting the Jewish nation-state.

“Christians have looked at the position of Iran and the anti-Semitic world and said ‘No,’” he said. “Israel as a country, as a people, will survive.”

Holocaust survivor Irving Roth addresses Liberty Univeristy Stand With Israel Club members and government students.
Holocaust survivor Irving Roth speaks with Liberty University Stand With Israel Club members and government students during his visit.

Later in the day, at a meeting in the Helms School of Government Round Table Suite with students from the Dean’s Council and the Stand With Israel Club, Roth discussed the necessity for a pro-Israeli presence in universities across the country.

“It is up to us, up to you the students, to challenge and look up various sources. Know the truth and tell the truth,” he said.

Roth found Liberty’s unwavering support refreshing as many universities have tried to unfairly label Israel as an apartheid nation.

“Whatever happens, (Liberty) will be there,” Roth said of the university’s commitment to protecting Israel. “They will not say ‘it’s not my problem’ and I think that makes me feel great — not good, but great — because I know there is a group dedicated to truth and integrity. I almost feel like I am preaching to the choir.”

Liberty has been a proud supporter of the Jewish nation of Israel and recently rejected a movement by the American Studies Association to boycott agreements with Israeli universities. Liberty regularly organizes study trips to Israel with various departments and the Center for Judaic Studies.

Liberty will continue this discussion by welcoming special guest Dr. Jacques Gauthier, from the University of Geneva, as he presents an argument for Israel’s right to the land from a legal perspective. Gauthier has spent nearly 20 years researching the issue. The event is sponsored by Liberty University School of Law, the School of Religion, and the School of Government and takes place in the law school’s Supreme Courtroom at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 26.