On April 19, Holocaust survivor Beatrice “Bea” Karp came from Omaha to tell her life story to a crowded lecture hall filled with students and members of the public in Burnett Hall.
Karp comes to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to speak every year to associate professor Gerald Steinacher’s History 339 class, “History of the Holocaust.” Steinacher is originally from Austria but has taught at UNL for six years. He has written several books on the Holocaust, including his latest book, “Nazis on the Run: How Hitler’s Henchmen Fled Justice.”
Before introducing Karp, Steinacher spoke a little about the application of what can be learned from the Holocaust to world relations today.
Originally born in Germany, Karp began her story by describing how she had never known a life without Adolf Hitler, but she can identify a specific moment when she and her family knew things were changing.
“The Nazis decided that all Jews had to register at a Nazi office,” she said. “We were all given identification cards with a symbol and a new middle name so that they all knew we were Jews.”
At this point, Karp’s family decided it was best to move out of their house and into an apartment. During the months there, Karp said she began to recognize what true hatred was. During one encounter with two men clad in Nazi apparel, Karp threw a handful of pebbles at them, not anticipating the chase that ensued. Shortly after, on the night of Nov. 9, 1938, her family was woken up in the middle of the night to the sounds of chaos outside.
“It was as if the whole city was burning,” Karp said. “The Nazis were burning all the synagogues.”
This night would become known as The Night of Broken Glass, or Kristallnacht. Throughout the night, Nazi soldiers not only destroyed religious institutions, but also looted and destroyed businesses and shops that were owned by Jews.
It was also the night that Karp’s father was captured and taken to a concentration camp.
Not too much time passed after the incident before two Nazis entered Karp’s apartment and forced the family to pack. They would be boarding a train and leaving for the same work camp.
Karp recalled many of the horrors of her experience during the Holocaust—how those who attempted to smuggle money from their homes into the camps were shot on the spot, how people who jumped off the train in a desperate attempt to escape were met with the same fate, and stories so morbid that Karp did not share them.
“I tell this story in memory of the millions that were murdered, as they should not be forgotten,” she said. “During my journey, I learned that while you can’t always control how people treat you physically, we always have a choice.”
Karp ended her talk by empowering the students in the audience.
“The future is up to you young people,” she said. “Please, take an interest and be active in what’s going on in this wonderful country.”