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Holocaust survivor Steen Metz to speak at The Lab on April 2


Holocaust survivor Steen Metz will speak at The Laboratory Theater of Florida at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, April 2 as part of the Theater’s expanding tolerance and cultural education programming. His question and answer discussion coincides with Holocaust Remembrance Month in April.

In Hebrew, Holocaust Remembrance Day is called Yom Hashoah. For the most part, Yom Hashoah is generally observed with speeches, poems, prayers and song. Often, six candles are lit to represent the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust. And during this time, Holocaust survivors speak about their experiences or share readings.

Throughout Florida, synagogues and Jewish service organizations hold Holocaust remembrance events, which are typically open to the public. Though the theater is not a religious organization, it is through theater and the arts that people get a chance to share and learn from each other. In this tradition, it is The Lab’s mission to enlighten, bring awareness, and break down the walls of fear and hatred through education and understanding.

Now 79, Metz spends his senior years recounting his story every chance he gets at schools, libraries, churches, senior centers and civic organizations throughout the country. However, it wasn’t always that way. Until he was 70, Metz kept his experiences at Theresienstadt private. For decades, many Holocaust survivors found it impossible to talk about what happened in the camps, even to their own children and grandchildren. But in 2011, Steen decided to write his memoirs, which he’s compiled in a self-published book titled A Danish Boy in Theresienstadt. Now, it’s Steen’s life mission to share his experiences with as many people as he can reach.

“I’m determined to keep the victims’ memories and stories alive,” he avows.

He accepts no pay or remuneration for his captivating talks and discussions.

A number of factors explain why he does this. In part, Steen feels a keen responsibility to provide a voice to those who perished during Shoah (the Hebrew word for the Holocaust). By sharing his story, he’s able to keep their memories alive and ensure that their deaths did not occur in vain. In this respect, he’s quick to draw a parallel to the genocide of a million and a half Armenians in Turkey 100 years ago (which is the subject of the film The Promise, starring Christian Bale, Charlotte Le Bon and Oscar Isaac).

“Today, 100 years later, no one in Turkey is allowed to talk to the people [about this],” Steen notes. “Turkey doesn’t even recognize that it ever happened. If you grow up in Turkey, there are no books, no education, nothing about it. So I draw a parallel. And I ask you not only to never forget, but to be my ambassador, to spread the word to at least four other people. That’s important, because 50, 60 years from now, we won’t be around to talk about the Holocaust.”

Florida Weekly published a story about Metz in 2015. Some of the highlights contained in that article include:

  • Metz was born in Odense, Denmark.
  • “I was only 8 years old when my parents and I were arrested. It was very early in the morning on October 2, 1943.”
  • The Metz family and about 60 other Jews were taken by open wagon to a schoolyard where they were assembled to be deported to Theresienstadt Concentration Camp in Czechoslovakia.
  • “I really had no idea what was happening,” he said.
  • Mr. Metz said he knew that Denmark had been occupied since 1940. But he didn’t understand that his being Jewish had anything to do with their arrest and deportation.
  • “I didn’t realize I was Jewish,” he said. “I was not brought up in the Jewish faith. It was a complete shock. Was it a crime to be Jewish?”
  • Emaciated through a combination of malnutrition and hard labor, Steen’s father, Axel, died of starvation within six months after his arrival in Theresienstadt.

Seating is available on a first come, first served basis, doors open 30 minutes prior to the event. There is no fee to listen to Mr. Metz but a $10 donation is suggested. Proceeds will be given to the Holocaust Museum and Education Center of Southwest Florida in Mr. Metz’s honor.

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