The official end of the Holocaust was May, 1945. In the 73 years since, many of the survivors of the genocide have passed away, but some are still here and telling their stories, including some survivors in Maine, who are seeking a younger audience to keep theses stories from being forgotten.
On a recent weekday morning, Charles Rotmil sits down in front of a large, blue projector screen at the Holocaust and Human Rights Center in Augusta.
He begins to recite a story he has told to thousands of students across Maine.
“I was born in Strasbourg, which is on the border of France and Germany,” Rotmil begins.
On this day, he’s speaking to just a handful of students. He shows them an image of a young girl being executed by Nazi officials.
“This girl is 16 years old. How old are you? How old are you?” he asks the students.
“Thirteen,” they respond.
“Can you imagine?” he asks.
Rotmil tells them that he’s a “witness,” a “hidden child.” A Jewish boy who grew up in Hitler’s Germany during the time of the Holocaust and who lost his mother, sister and father. As millions of Jews were taken from their homes and sent to concentration camps, Rotmil and his brother went into hiding. They found shelter with a Catholic monk, and later with a Catholic family.
But Rotmil says he still came face-to-face with death on multiple occasions: Nazi soldiers, he says, would ransack the homes of people they suspected were harboring Jews.