NORFOLK (NNS) -- Mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center (MARMC) hosted guest speaker and Holocaust refugee Alex Keisch who spoke of "Acts of Courage" during a Holocaust Remembrance program held in Building LF-18 at Naval Station Norfolk, May 24.
Keisch is the youngest Holocaust survivor in Richmond, Virginia. He travels the country teaching audiences about the lessons the Holocaust brings us today, which pertain to acceptance, tolerance and how to counter act bullying.
"It started because I was looking for a piece of my past," said Keisch. "I attended a few lectures where people told of how awful things were for them at the [concentration] camps. I realized that I wanted to start speaking because I knew it would be cathartic for me."
During his early days of speaking, Keisch joined Toast Masters, a communication and leadership development organization, in order to get experience with presenting to large audiences. This also served as a test bed for him to see if he would be able to keep his emotions in check.
"I wasn't sure that I would be able to hold my emotions in. On one occasion, a Holocaust survivor by the name of Pierre Sauvage came to the museum where I work in Richmond. He is the son of Polish immigrants who hid in a Huguenot village and he was born there a year before the war was over. So, I thought if he could talk about the Holocaust then I could as well."
Keisch, the son of Jewish partisans, was born in the final weeks leading up to the end of World War II on the site of the Nazi work camp Plaszov, near the city of Krakow, Poland. This site has been popularized by the film Schindler's List where Oscar Schindler rescued over 1,000 Jews.
"My goal has been to teach a lesson - how would you stop something like the holocaust from happening today. It takes courage to survive; it is the easy way out to go ahead and die and not stand up for what is right."
As part of Keisch's presentation, he speaks to the troubles of bullying and how small acts of unchecked aggression can lead to major problems that affect the lives of entire groups of people. He has come up with a catch phrase that he hopes will not only make people stop and think, but can be used as a mantra - "We don't allow that here."
"A lot of people see bullying as just part of being a kid. No, it is not," said Keisch. "At this point, bullying is an epidemic, not a rite of passage. Is genocide the next phase of bullying; I say yes. Generations of years, centuries of bullying result in genocides."
Finding systemic solutions and turning bystanders into "up-standers" has been at the heart of Keisch's message since he began giving lectures. This was evident in the parting words he left with those in attendance at MARMC.
"If you or your child are being bullied, I want you to teach him or her to look that bully in the face and then keep on walking - repeating the mantra over and over again, we don't allow that here," said Keisch.
MARMC has a long standing tradition of hosting guest speakers to inform members of the command about culture and diversity. These events also give insight not only into the country's history, but the world's history, and serve to teach one another about the unique paths individuals have taken to arrive where they are today.
"Through the sadness, there are stories like Mr. Keisch's who can speak to courage and bravery - sacrifice and valor," said MARMC Executive Officer Capt. Steven Connell. "These are the bittersweet lessons that I hope we can all learn something from and feel inspired to know the strength that exists within us all."
Today, Captain Keisch sits on the Executive Council of the Board of Trustees at The Virginia Holocaust Museum as well as volunteering as a docent for the Museum. He also serves as Vice President of the Board of Trustees for The Emek Sholom Holocaust Memorial Cemetery and is this year's chairman for the annual Kristallnacht Services.
For more information on Capt. Alex Keisch, please visit www.yesnobullies.org.
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For more news from Mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center, visit www.navy.mil/local/nssa/.