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Holocaust survivor draws crowd in Flathead

Holocaust survivor, Peter Metzelaar speaks at the Flathead Valley Community College.jpg

A Holocaust survivor drew a big crowd at a Flathead Valley Community College auditorium. Guests spilled into the entrance of the building, and others had to stand on the sidelines.

Peter Metzelaar, who was born in 1935 in Amsterdam, was there to share his story.

Metzelaar says he gives talks to let the younger generation know what the festering of baseless hatred can lead to.

Last year Metzelaar did 41 talks through the Seattle-based Holocaust Center for Humanity.

Tuesday night’s talk in the Flathead was coordinated with the Glacier Jewish Community.

Unlike other holocaust survival stories, like Elie Wiesel’s memoir “Night,” which took place in a concentration camp, Metzelaar's story is one of close calls while hiding in the Netherlands as 7-year-old boy with his mother.

Although he and his mother managed to survive in the Dutch underground, moving around and relying on the kindness of strangers who risked their lives to help them, his entire family did not come back from the camps after the war was over.

His father defied the Nuremberg laws that prohibited Jews from owning boats. He went fishing in his row boat on one of the canals, was abducted, and Metzelaar and his mother never saw him again.

Metzelaar says he’s one of 14 active speakers with the Holocaust Center for Humanity.

“Some of them were actually staying at the camps, and others were hidden. We have a couple of people who snuck into the military; one gentleman was in a unit that liberated the death camps,” he said.

He says the work he’s doing with the Center for Humanity is very important to him.

“Through the years I’ve gotten thousands of letters from the kids. That is where I get my joy from, to make some impact on a different way of thinking about things even though Uncle Charlie said so and so – well look it up, maybe Uncle Charlie wasn’t quite right,” he said.

Metzelaar will be sharing his story again Wednesday at both Flathead High and Glacier High.

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