Paul Argiewicz survived the Holocaust as a teenager because German citizens decided to help him. From a foreman who fed him sandwiches to an SS officer who gave him clothing on a death march, he would not have survived without them.
Before he began speaking to the 7th and 8th grade students Tuesday at Aptakisic Junior High in Buffalo Grove, his wife Cheryl encouraged the children to be nice to others because they too might save a life.
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Bebe Nudelman, 8th grade social studies teacher, arranged to have Argiewicz speak to her students after they had finished learning about the Holocaust and World War II.
"This opportunity is not going to be around for very much longer, to have living history come to their school and answer their questions," Nudelman said.
Eight grader Anton Kulikov had never seen a Holocaust survivor speak before.
"I was just amazed that he survived it. He was actually there," Kulikov said.
The school opened the event to members of the community. Around 20 people took advantage of the opportunity; most were parents and grandparents of students.
"I've never seen or heard a survivor speak before. I think it's a great opportunity for the kids," said Peggy Rose. Her son, Max Schnierow, is a 7th grader at Aptakisic.
Rose came to the event so that she and her son could discuss it at home. She wanted to able to answer any questions her son might have about the difficult topic of the assembly.
Argiewicz is now 8o years old and lives in Paddock Lake, Wis. He does about one speaking engagement a week with the author of his biography, Deanne Joseph of Brighton, Wis.
Their book "Number 176520" tracks Argiewicz's journey from the Jewish ghetto to his liberation from Buchenwald concentration camp. The title of the book is the number the Germans tattooed onto his arm when he arrived at the Auschwitz death camp when he was 11 years old.
Joseph told the children that she was convinced to work on the book after Argiewicz told her, "I need you to tell my story because they're saying it didn't happen."
The book came out in 2009 and is targeted toward high school students. Joseph, a former high school teacher, was dissatisfied with the way other books downplayed the atrocities of the Holocaust.
"We have a responsibility to tell the truth to kids," Joseph said. "If kids don't know the truth, then history has the possibility to repeat itself. We need to empower them through knowledge."