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From Darkness to Light: An Interview with Thomas Buergenthal, Holocaust Survivor and Author of A Lucky Child

Thomas Buergenthal, a survivor of the Holocaust and esteemed legal scholar, is a man whose life and achievements inspire awe and admiration. From enduring unimaginable hardship as a child to becoming a prominent judge at the International Court of Justice, Buergenthal’s journey serves as a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the pursuit of justice. Today, we have the incredible opportunity to delve deeper into the life and experiences of this extraordinary individual, as we sit down to interview Thomas Buergenthal.

Thomas Buergenthal is a prominent human rights advocate, scholar, and judge who has dedicated his life to fighting for justice and protecting the rights of individuals worldwide. Born in 1934 in Czechoslovakia and later becoming a U.S. citizen, Buergenthal’s own experiences as a Holocaust survivor shape his unwavering commitment to promoting human rights and preventing atrocities. His remarkable journey has taken him from surviving Auschwitz to becoming a judge at the International Court of Justice, where he played a crucial role in resolving complex international disputes. Buergenthal’s tireless work and indomitable spirit continue to inspire countless individuals in their pursuit of a more just and equitable world.

10 Thought-Provoking Questions with Thomas Buergenthal

1. Can you provide ten A Lucky Child by Thomas Buergenthal quotes to our readers?

1. “The human capacity for self-delusion is sometimes astonishing.”

2. “I often wonder how I survived, a five-year-old boy alone in Auschwitz.”

3. “In the chaos of war, acts of humanity can be found even in the darkest places.”

4. “We forgot what had happened and embraced life with the vigor of youth.”

5. “Fate can make us victims, but it is up to us to remain survivors.”

6. “Hope has a way of finding us, even in the most hopeless situations.”

7. “Love and compassion can provide us with strength and resilience beyond measure.”

8. “Survivors have a responsibility to bear witness for those who cannot.”

9. “Even in the face of unimaginable suffering, the human spirit can prevail.”

10. “My story is not just my own; it is a testament to the millions who perished and the few who survived.”

These quotes provide a glimpse into the themes of survival, resilience, and the human capacity for both good and evil that are explored in “A Lucky Child” by Thomas Buergenthal.

2.In your book “A Lucky Child,” you share your remarkable story of survival during the Holocaust. What motivated you to write this book and share your experiences?

I wrote “A Lucky Child” to give a voice to those who did not survive the Holocaust and to bear witness to the atrocities that took place. My motivation stems from a deep sense of responsibility to preserve the memory of the millions who perished, ensure their stories are not forgotten, and provide a testament to the resilience of the human spirit.

Being one of the few child survivors of Auschwitz, I realized how fortunate I was to have survived against all odds. I felt an obligation to use my survival as a means to educate future generations about the dangers of prejudice, racism, and intolerance. By sharing my experiences, I aimed to provide a personal perspective on the Holocaust, dispel any illusions about its horrors, and advocate for the importance of human rights.

Moreover, I hoped that through my story, readers would recognize the significance of compassion, empathy, and the courage to stand up against injustice. By recounting the darkest parts of my childhood, I also wanted to inspire resilience and hope, illustrating how even in the face of unimaginable brutality, the human spirit can prevail.

In essence, “A Lucky Child” is my commitment to ensuring that the world never forgets the Holocaust and its lasting impact on humanity.

3.Can you describe some of the hardships you faced during your time in concentration camps and the challenges you encountered after the war?

During my time in the concentration camps, I faced numerous hardships that left a deep impact on my life. Firstly, the constant fear and uncertainty of survival haunted me each day. Witnessing the horrors and atrocities inflicted upon fellow prisoners, including friends and family, was unimaginably devastating. The physical conditions were deplorable – overcrowded barracks, malnutrition, and disease were a constant struggle. Enduring forced labor, where I was subjected to grueling and dangerous tasks, added to the physical and emotional torment.

After the war, the challenges continued. The loss of my entire family was an immense burden to bear. Rebuilding my life from scratch, struggling with feelings of guilt for being a survivor, and learning to trust again were formidable obstacles. The search for a sense of belonging and identity was a constant challenge. Academic pursuits were both an escape and a means of rebuilding my future, requiring perseverance and determination.

However, despite it all, I emerged with a profound desire for justice and the belief in the power of education to combat ignorance and prevent future atrocities. This dedication led to a career in law and human rights, where I have strived to make a difference.

4.How did your experiences during the Holocaust shape your perspective on war and humanity?

My experiences during the Holocaust greatly shaped my perspective on war and humanity. As a survivor of Auschwitz and Sachsenhausen concentration camps, witnessing the immense suffering and cruelty inflicted upon innocent people, I have come to understand the true horrors of war and the depths to which humanity can sink.

The Holocaust taught me that war is not just about soldiers fighting on battlefields; it is about the impact it has on civilians, particularly women, children, and the vulnerable. It impressed upon me the importance of advocating for peace and fostering understanding between nations, as opposed to resorting to violence and conflict.

Furthermore, my experiences highlighted the resilience and strength of the human spirit. In the face of unimaginable cruelty, I witnessed acts of compassion, selflessness, and heroism that reaffirmed my belief in the inherent goodness of humanity.

Ultimately, my perspective on war and humanity is one that highlights the value of empathy, tolerance, and respect for one another. It is a perspective rooted in the understanding that peace can only be achieved through mutual understanding, forgiveness, and the recognition of our shared humanity.

5.”A Lucky Child” highlights your incredible luck in surviving such a horrific period in history. Can you share some of the moments or circumstances that you consider particularly fortunate?

“A Lucky Child” emphasizes my extraordinary luck in surviving one of the darkest periods in history. While the Holocaust was an indescribable horror, there were some moments and circumstances that I consider incredibly fortunate.

Firstly, being separated from my parents in Auschwitz was heart-wrenching, but as fate would have it, I managed to survive by being assigned to the children’s block, where conditions were relatively less harsh. This afforded me some level of protection, as the Nazis typically targeted adults with more intensity.

Additionally, the help and kindness extended to me by fellow prisoners and strangers were instrumental in my survival. An example of this was when a French political prisoner, who later became my lifelong friend, managed to smuggle me extra food, saving me from starvation.

Perhaps the most pivotal stroke of luck was my escape from a death march. During the march, when Nazi guards ordered us to run as they prepared to shoot, I ended up collapsing with exhaustion. This fortunate collapse saved my life, as the guards assumed I had already been shot and left me behind.

In summary, “A Lucky Child” emphasizes numerous moments and circumstances where luck played a role in my survival during the Holocaust. From being assigned to the children’s block to small acts of kindness and my unexpected collapse during a death march, these instances highlight the extraordinary fortune I encountered amidst such a horrific period in history.

6.What role did hope and resilience play in your survival and ability to rebuild your life after the war?

Hope and resilience played an indispensable role in my survival and the subsequent rebuilding of my life after the war. As a young child in Auschwitz, hope was often all I had to cling to amidst the rampant despair and unimaginable atrocities I witnessed. It fueled my determination to endure, and instilled in me the belief that there was a future beyond the horrors of that place. Resilience allowed me to persevere through the physical and emotional hardships I faced during and after the war, granting me the strength to heal from the traumas I endured. It propelled me forward, motivating me to rebuild my life and contribute to society in a meaningful way.

Hope and resilience became guiding forces that enabled me to navigate the challenges of post-war life. They provided me with the courage to pursue education and justice, ultimately leading me to a career in international law and advocacy for human rights. The ability to find hope in even the darkest of moments, and the determination to rise above adversity, were instrumental in my survival and journey towards rebuilding a life filled with purpose and meaning.

7.How did writing this book help you process and reflect upon your experiences? Did it bring any new insights or perspectives?

Writing this book has been an incredibly therapeutic and introspective process, allowing me to delve deep into my own experiences and reflect upon them in a profound way. The act of recounting my personal journey and revisiting the horrors of my past has enabled me to process the traumas I endured during my time in various concentration camps.

Moreover, writing this book has provided me with the opportunity to gain new insights and perspectives. It has allowed me to connect the dots between different events and experiences, making sense of the complexities I encountered. By putting words to my experiences, I discovered a newfound understanding of the human capacity for resilience and survival amidst unimaginable circumstances.

Additionally, writing this book has facilitated a deeper exploration of the ethical and moral dilemmas that arise during times of conflict and the consequences they have on individuals and societies. It has allowed me to critically analyze my own decisions and those of others, encouraging me to confront the painful reality of human cruelty and the need for justice.

Overall, writing this book has not only helped me find solace and healing but has also fostered a deeper introspection, leading to new insights and perspectives that continue to shape my understanding of the world.

8.What message or lessons do you hope readers will take away from “A Lucky Child”?

In “A Lucky Child,” my candid memoir of surviving the Holocaust as a young boy, my primary objective is to impart important messages and lasting lessons to readers. Firstly, I hope readers understand the indomitable human spirit and the power of hope even in the face of unimaginable adversity. Through my personal story, I want to inspire individuals to persevere and maintain optimism in even the darkest times.

Additionally, I want readers to grasp the significance of empathy and compassion towards others. By recounting the acts of kindness and compassion displayed by both strangers and occasional friends during my ordeal, I hope to underscore the importance of standing up for those facing injustice and offering support to the marginalized. It is a call to reject indifference and actively work towards creating a more inclusive and just society.

Lastly, “A Lucky Child” serves as a reminder of the consequences of intolerance, racism, and xenophobia. It is a plea to challenge prejudice and promote understanding, acceptance, and equality. By comprehending the historical weight of the Holocaust, readers can become more aware and better equipped to confront hatred and discrimination in their own lives, fostering a more tolerant and compassionate world.

9.Did writing this book provide you with any closure or healing? How has sharing your story impacted your life?

Writing this book has indeed provided me with a sense of closure and healing. Reliving the painful memories of my childhood and documenting my experiences allowed me to confront the traumas I had buried deep within me. Through writing, I was able to fully acknowledge the atrocities I witnessed and endured, and to give voice to the countless victims who did not survive.

Sharing my story has impacted my life in profound ways. It has been cathartic to be able to share the truth about the Holocaust and my personal journey with a wider audience. I hope that by sharing, I can contribute to preventing such horrors from happening again in the future. Moreover, sharing my story has allowed me to connect with survivors, scholars, and individuals who are committed to human rights and social justice. It has been heartening to see the impact my words have had on others and to know that my story is helping to shed light on the importance of tolerance, empathy, and the fight against injustice.

Overall, writing this book and sharing my story has brought me a sense of closure, healing, and purpose. It has allowed me to preserve the memories of those who perished and to contribute to a world that values human dignity and the protection of fundamental rights.

10. Can you recommend more books like A Lucky Child?

1. “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak: Set in Nazi Germany, this gripping and emotionally charged novel tells the story of a young girl named Liesel who steals books to escape reality. It beautifully explores the power of words and the resilience of the human spirit.

2. The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah: This historical fiction takes place during World War II and follows the lives of two sisters in occupied France. With vivid storytelling and memorable characters, it delves into themes of love, sacrifice, and the strength of women during times of adversity.

3. “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini: A poignant and thought-provoking novel set in Afghanistan, it follows the journey of Amir, a young boy from Kabul, and his complex relationship with his childhood friend, Hassan. This book explores themes of guilt, redemption, and the consequences of our actions.

4. “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee: A classic that needs no introduction, this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel explores racial injustice and moral growth through the eyes of Scout Finch, a young girl growing up in the 1930s American South. It remains a timeless masterpiece, addressing important themes of empathy, tolerance, and the power of standing up for what is right.

5. The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho: An enchanting and philosophical tale, this international bestseller follows a young Andalusian shepherd named Santiago on his quest for personal fulfillment and spiritual enlightenment. Through vivid storytelling, it encourages readers to follow their dreams and listen to their hearts.

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