In reading Charlie’s King’s Remembering Dr. Bruml’s column in last week's Times-Mirror, I’m immediately reminded of my late father-in-law, Rubin Sztajer. Rubin passed away in March last year. It’s very satisfying to know that after the terrible Holocaust and Hitler’s attempt to exterminate Jews, the survivors ever determined to never forget but to “carry on as one can.” Dr. Bruml did just that!
Rubin’s survival was predicated by ensuring that he did all he could to carry on as one can by creating a substantial legacy – his family. Today his youngest daughter, her oldest daughter and her daughter (Rubin’s daughter, granddaughter and great-granddaughter) live in Leesburg. The rest of Rubin’s family lives close by in D.C. and Maryland. His family consists of: three children – all college graduates; seven grandchildren – all college graduates; and five great-grandchildren.
Upon his retirement, Rubin wanted to give back to the community. For nearly 70 years Rubin Sztajer spoke of his experience as a young boy growing up in Poland during World War II and as a survivor of the Holocaust. His audiences were primarily made up of middle school and high school students. Having lived in the Baltimore area during most of his adult life, he traveled to schools in Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the District of Columbia.
When asked why he preferred speaking to young people, he said, “I only speak to children. I give them hope and encouragement, and they realize there are so many opportunities for them after hearing my story. I tell them to go home and tell your family how lucky you are that you have them.” Rubin insisted that reading books about the Holocaust isn’t the same as hearing the story told firsthand. He had a tremendous impact on upwards of 500,000 students over the years – each one so inspired by his story and his message that many came to hear him speak several times, often year after year.
His youngest daughter, honoring his wishes, authored a simple straightforward book comprised of Rubin’s own words. It’s a first-person account of his experience as a Holocaust survivor, coming from transcriptions of several of his speeches and interviews. Rubin believed that everyone should have hope. As he said at the end of every talk, “I try not to live in the past. I will never forget the past, but I live for the future.”
Many times, Rubin was asked what makes him happy. His response was the same every time: You [all] make me happy. Speaking to you all, our future. I want to give you hope. I want you to look forward to the future and know I believe in you, your family does, and the world does.
Rubin’s book is “Rubin’s Story: A Holocaust survivor’s story becomes a message of hope and inspiration to young people everywhere.” It’s available from Amazon on Kindle for $1 or hard copy for $7. All proceeds go to Boys Town National Hotline, a free resource and counseling service that assist youths and parents (Boystown.org/hotline).