Lester: Granddaughter helps carry concentration camp survivor's message
Steen Metz remembers being arrested by Nazis at age 8 and spending three days with other Danish Jews in a crowded cattle car bound for the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp. "We were packed like sardines and didn't get food or anything to drink," Metz, of Lincolnshire, says. "I can still smell it because we had no bathroom facilities. We used buckets." Both his parents entered the concentration camp with him in 1943, but only his mother left -- his father died of starvation within a few months.
Metz stayed silent about those horrors until about five years ago, when he wrote his memoirs as a way for his family to understand his story.
"I wasn't ready before. It's very typical for survivors," he said.
Upon reading his story, Metz's oldest daughter pushed him to speak at Lincoln Middle School in Park Ridge. It proved to be a pivotal moment. Metz has since spoken to nearly 30,000 local students. His message to them is always the same: Never forget, and be "upstanders, not bystanders" -- speaking out and standing for what they believe in, instead of staying silent while atrocities occur.
Now, another generation of the family is involved in his mission, applying Metz's lessons to counter prejudices against Muslims and Syrian refugees in the area.
Metz's granddaughter, Sarah McDermott of Chicago, is a sophomore at St. Viator High School in Arlington Heights and a member of the Rev. Corey Brost's Children of Abraham Coalition, a group that promotes peace by emphasizing common threads among faiths. The group gave Metz a "courage award" at a dinner last week in Arlington Heights.
"My grandpa talks about being in a concentration camp because he was Jewish, not because he did anything wrong. We need to learn from that and understand it's OK to be of a different religion and different race," McDermott said.
A sign from dad
Rolling Meadows Mayor Tom Rooney figures his late father is looking out for him.
Two decades ago, his father Pat died the day before signup began for joining the Indian Guides with his two sons.
Rooney figures his dad meant to make it up to him last week on the 20th anniversary of his death. That's the day Rooney learned he was being appointed to a state senate seat.
Former state Sen. Matt Murphy of Palatine, whose resignation made room for Rooney's appointment,
left some big shoes to fill on a number of key committees. Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno of Lemont on Tuesday appointed state Sen. Chris Nybo of Elmhurst to Murphy's spot on the Senate Executive Committee.
Mount Prospect native and former "American Idol" champ Lee DeWyze is returning to Arlington Park to perform Saturday at the racetrack's end-of-season celebration, Furlong Fest. DeWyze played at Arlington during his "Idol" run in 2010 and sold the place out with 41,000 people. DeWyze has a new album out this year, "Oil & Water," and one of his songs was recently featured in an episode on the hit TV show "The Walking Dead." Tickets range from $5 to $40. For more information, see www.arlingtonpark.com.
'Full cognitive recovery'
Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk's campaign released a letter from his doctor saying he's made a "full cognitive recovery" since his January 2012 stroke. But the letter, from Dr. Richard Fessler of Rush University, didn't answer some questions I posed about Kirk's ongoing rehabilitation.
Campaign manager Kevin Artl tells me Kirk doesn't drive any longer and largely does his own exercise programs -- either at the Senate's gym or by timing himself on a walking course with stairs he's mapped around his Fort Sheridan condo in Highland Park. Kirk, a retired naval reservist, is making a re-election bid Nov. 8 against U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth of Hoffman Estates in one of the nation's most closely watched Senate races.
Duckworth's also a veteran who uses prostheses and a cane to walk. She lost both her legs after the helicopter she was piloting was shot down in Iraq in 2004.