Renee Resler Joffe, a volunteer for the Holocaust Resource Center's Speakers Bureau, spoke to Mount St. Mary Academy students on March 30, detailing her experiences in Occupied France. Joffe lived with her mother, father and younger sister in Paris during the outbreak of the war and first years of occupation, before escaping to Southern France.
Joffe spoke to upperclassmen in Mount St. Mary Academy's Holocaust Studies class, sharing her story of her father's arrest by the Germans and her family's flight from Paris.
She offered a perspective that the students could identify with by explaining what life was like as a teenager living under Nazi occupation. Joffe told students that as teenagers, she and her sister were worried about the opinions of her peers, while wearing stars to school.
"One of my most terrible memories is of the last words I ever had with my father," says Joffe. "I was sick in bed with the mumps and I begged him not to go into the city. He told me, 'When I want to know what you think I will ask it.'"
Joffe's father never returned to their countryside home and died shortly after in Auschwitz.
"To have the memory of your last time seeing your father to be something sad, something that could have had a different outcome under different circumstances, that idea stayed with me," says junior Erica Harms.
"Mrs. Joffe's story is a reminder to me to always value the people I love and to learn from your past."
Students then had an opportunity to speak with Joffe, asking questions and learning about life as a teenager under threat of arrest or death.
The Mount St. Mary Academy Holocaust class, taught by Christina Held-Hulsing, allows students to study the causes and impact of the genocide, with in depth focus on three groups: the perpetrators, the bystanders and the victims.