Even though she lost most of her family during the Holocaust, Eva Olsson told a group of people at Penn Highlands Community College that she feels privileged and blessed to be where she is today.
“If we eliminate hate, automatically we are eliminating bullies,” Olsson said. Bullies is how the 91-year-old Holocaust survivor described Nazi Germany to her audience. At just 19-years-old Olsson was in an Auschwitz concentration camp. She remembers it clearly and recalls the worst moment, how she lost her mother, “She was 48 when she was taken away from me. Thinking about how she died, watching her grandchildren in the gas chamber, watching them suffocate before she did, was hard. That’s in my mind all of the time.”
Tuesday was about more than just educating folks on the horrors of the Holocaust. Olsson inspired her audience with her look on life. She told them she lost almost everything, except the strength of her spirit to move forward.
“I believe that it’s incredible that if you go through so many difficulties and you can still have positivity and optimism in life. I believe it shows a lot about her character,” said Richland High School student Andrew Frear.
One of the struggles for Olsson was going back to where it all happened. Olsson said it was devastating to see the camps and where her home once stood, “There was no sign that I ever lived there and that wasn’t easy to get over.”
Although the events haunted her for 50 years, she told her young audience that she still has a positive outlook on life and does not believe in hate, “It’s about attitude. Attitude will determine your success.”
“It is really easy to say the word “hate,” but I don’t think as children in this society we understand the strength of the word, especially after hearing this today,” Northern Cambria High School student Emily Weaver said.
Olsson said she travels North America eight months out of the year sharing her story and her message of hope.