Education for Justice & Leadership is an integral component of a Notre Dame education, helping to form young women for compassionate and socially-just leadership. The program is defined by four core concepts developed across the curriculum: personal engagement and responsibility, stewardship, solidarity and advocacy. One key element of the program is Notre Dame's Speaker Series, which allows students to hear, first-hand, from individuals who have lived these concepts. This year’s sophomore class heard a moving account of a childhood of hiding and loss from George J. Elbaum who was born in Poland only a year before Hitler invaded the country.
Mr. Elbaum shared his personal story and excerpts from his book, Neither Yesterdays Nor Tomorrows. “I was one year old in Warsaw in September 1939 when Hitler invaded Poland and World War II started. Within weeks my father was called into the army and never returned, so I never knew him. Within 3 years my grandparents, uncles and aunts, about a dozen family members in all, had been killed by the Nazis. Only my mother and I were still alive. We were Jewish, so according to the Nazi plan, we were alive illegally. My mother dyed her hair blond and bought the ID documents of a Catholic woman who had died. I neither looked nor knew that I was Jewish, so shortly after my 3rd birthday my mother smuggled me out of the Warsaw ghetto, then paid various Polish Catholic families to hide me and raise me with their own children. I never knew when my mother would visit me, nor if she would. On some visits she took me to a new family with whom I would live for a while and sometimes she told me a new last name that I must remember in case anyone asked who I was. This tenuous life went on for almost 4 years till the war ended and I was almost 7, then to a lesser extent for another 4 years which included my being sent to France, where only a broken leg kept me from continuing to Palestine. I returned to Poland, but stability came only when my mother and I arrived in the U.S. in late 1949.”
His story moved students to tears and laughter and will certainly stay with them long after the end of their education at Notre Dame.