“My eyes have seen unspeakable horrors”


Renee Backstrom

Robbie Waisman tells his Holocaust story to students at Wahoo High School. At the end of his speech, juniors Taylor Masek and Debbie White gave him a bouquet of flowers to thank him for coming.

Renee Backstrom

To listen to a Holocaust survivor’s story, the three classes of juniors in American History II traveled to Wahoo on Wed., March 29.

At Wahoo High School, students learned about survivor Robbie Waisman. He was born in Poland and was the youngest of six kids. After the Holocaust, he and his sister were the only survivors out of their family.

“I have had the opportunity to bring my American History II students to a Holocaust speaker the last five years at Wahoo,” social studies teacher Amp Ferg said. “I take kids to these survivors because listening to them may be a once in a lifetime experience for my students. Not many of my students would seek out a Holocaust speaker on their own time, so if I have an opportunity to take 40+ kids, for free, I cannot pass that up.”

Waisman began by stating that he grew up in an Orthodox Jewish family and that he had always been spoiled. He then realized it would soon come to an end when one day he was walking and saw ten people being beaten and shot.

“I’m very grateful we had the opportunity to listen to the Holocaust speaker,” junior Debbie White said. “It was a wonderful experience especially thanking him with flowers. Listening to him really changed my perspective on how I look at life. We need to understand life isn’t perfect and there’s always somebody who has it worse than you.”

First taken to the Ghettos and then to a working camp, the Nazis used Waisman’s small, fast- working fingers to help fix machines.

“My dad and I were both sent to the work. He was in the evening shift, and I was in the morning,” Waisman said. “We only got to see each other when we passed in the hall switching shifts and on Sundays. One day, I couldn’t find him, and I knew that he had died. I will never know if he ran to the electric fence like so many others did, or maybe he walked too slow on purpose and got shot. What I do know, is that the pain my father endured by watching his wife and children die was unbearable.”

Waisman was found by United States soldiers. When he first came out, he ran up and touched a man because he had never seen an African American. That man, Dr. Leon Bass, later became a good friend who he used to present with until he passed away four years ago.

“We wanted to go home and be reunited with our families. We realized there was no home, and our families had all been murdered,” Waisman said.  

Waisman is now living in Canada with his wife. After finding out a school in Canada didn’t study the Holocaust, he decided to travel to teach kids about it and share his story.

“I think the Holocaust was an event that was unimaginable, and some kids have a hard time understanding how horrific the treatment of Jews and other political opponents of the Nazis were,” Ferg said. “So if I can take kids to hear someone speak of this event that they lived through, I think it can only be a positive experience for our kids. They will be able to tell their grandkids about this experience, and that will keep history alive and relevant.”