The violence that gripped Charlottesville, Virginia, this weekend rattled the entire country. It was hard to believe a huge group of white supremacists could march down the streets holding tiki torches and shouting slogans of white nationalism like it was 1920s instead of 2017.
The scenes from the so-called “Unite the Right” rally were disturbing, to say the least, but they were much more hurtful to those who lived through the horror of Holocaust and lost their family, friends and loved ones to the Nazi regime.
“To see people carrying Nazi flags, it’s frightening. It’s also saddening,” Holocaust survivor Alfred Munzer told Mic. “Because it really means that the terrible lessons of the Holocaust haven’t been learned.”
Munzer’s parents were Jewish immigrants who fled to Holland in the early 1930s, just as Adolf Hitler was coming to power in Germany. Munzer was born in the Netherlands in 1941 — a year after Nazi forces invaded the country.
He was merely a year old when his family split apart and went into hiding. His parents sent his sisters to live with a Catholic woman and put him in the care of a family friend who later sent him to live with her ex-husband while his parents hid in a psychiatric hospital.
Unfortunately, Munzer and his mother were the only two members of the family who survived the Holocaust. His sisters, Eva and Leah, died in a concentration camp while his father, Simcha, passed away two months after the camps were liberated.
Munzer and his mother immigrated to the United States in 1958 in hopes of a better life.
“We really never expected that we would confront the same hate in the U.S. — that’s what we were running away from,” he added.
During an interview with CBS 19, Munzer also condemned President Donald Trump for blaming both sides for the violence in Virginia.
“He had to be prompted and he really seemed to take his words back,” Munzer said. “There is a tremendous difference between people who are promoting hate speech and people who are there to promote and speak up against hate speech.”
Munzer, who became a pulmonologist and later president of the American Lung Association, also volunteers at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.
“It really hurts,” he continued, expressing his agony over the violence in Charlottesville. “I really expect our leaders to speak up and stand up for what is right ... without being prompted.”
Thumbnail/Banner: Reuters, Joshua Roberts