Holocaust survivor shares her story with the students of Cal State Fullerton

Mary Bauer reminisces about her father (seen in the background projection) before he was killed during the Holocaust. Photo By Christa Connelly/Daily Titan Photo Editor

The students of Cal State Fullerton’s European studies society presented speaker Mary Bauer, a survivor of the Holocaust, who shared her personal experiences during the war and after with students, faulty and community members at the Pollack Library Wednesday evening.

According to literature posted by the students of the European studies society, Bauer was born in Budapest, Hungary, on May 29, 1927.

When she was a teenager, Bauer was deported to Auschwitz, along with her mother and grandparents, in the spring of 1944. In prison, Bauer was forced to work as a weaver, converting the shorn hair of prisoners into items necessary for the Nazi war effort.

In January 1945, Bauer and her mother were forcibly marched from Auschwitz, Poland to Ravensbruck, Germany. Liberated by the Russian Red Army in the spring of 1945, she returned to Hungary with her mother, only to find their home looted, and antisemitism as strong as ever. Realizing there was no future for her daughter in postwar Hungary, Bauer’s mother sent her to Berlin. Bauer sailed to the United States soon after and settled in Los Angeles with her husband.

During an introductory speech, Steve Jobbit, assistant professor of modern history at CSUF, spoke about the universal elements that Bauer managed to bring out through her stories. Jobbit introduced the audience to her particular story in the context of the Hungarian Jewish history and the Holocaust; a story that he said played different than it did elsewhere in Europe.

Jobbit also presented a slideshow that chronicled Bauer’s journey throughout her ordeal that showcased pictures of Bauer, her family and the house she lived in before she was deported.

Bauer, who lives in LA, is a passionate critic of racism and intolerance and continues to work toward educating people not only about the Holocaust, but also about the horrors of genocide and ethnic cleansing around the world.

“I’m here to tell you why I’m alive, because strangely enough, except the hidden children, I am the youngest survivor…” Bauer said. She said that even though people have seen enough, and there are books and movies about the Holocaust, there are also distorted stories that deny the truth of what happened with her and other survivors.

Bauer spoke about her life in Hungary; a life she described as “normal;” a life that soon escalated, in a matter of weeks, to one filled with uncertainty and threat when Jews began to be subject to persecution.

“It was too fast to absorb, indignancies were occurring at a fast pace,” Bauer said, describing how Jews were forbidden to attend public schools and had to wear yellow stars stitched onto their clothing. “It is very ugly when a government can sanction such things,” she said.

Bauer went on to chronicle her journey, describing her deportation to Auschwitz, her work in the weaveries, the march from Auschwitz to Ravensbruck and the Liberation by the Russian Red army in the spring of 1945. Bauer recalled many of the atrocities committed on the Jews, many of them that she was an eyewitness to.

Finally, Bauer recollected the events that led to her immigration to the United States in 1951 and recalled how horrified she was when she encountered racism still prevalent, especially against black people in New Orleans.

When she tried to raise her voice against the discrimination, Bauer said she was threatened with deportation for being a communist.

“All of a sudden, I was accused of being a communist, just because I had a social conscience?” Bauer remembers thinking.

“There are no differences,” Bauer said. “If you don’t like someone, well, that is your privilege, but don’t dislike groups, that is very unjust,” Bauer told the audience.
Bauer emphasized to students that it was important for them to be aware of their rights.

“Don’t you forget that you have rights, use it, but use it in the right sense,” she said.

When asked why she thought she had survived the Holocaust, Bauer said that there were no wits, no smarts and no intelligence involved in her survival.

“It was just chance that they did not have enough time to kill us,” she said.

Michael Willliam Lopez, junior kinesiology major, said that he really enjoyed the talk.

“It was really powerful and it scares me that anti-semitism is still so prevalent today,” he said. Lopez said that he was particularly moved by the stories about Bauer immigrating to the U.S. and having to encounter openly racist people.

Cara Rosen, a history and women’s studies major and the president of the European studies society who organized the event, said that more people showed up at the event than expected, but it was good because people needed to be aware that racism was still a prevalent issue in today’s society.

“Being a student, I am astounded by her story – I’m in awe,” Rosen said after hearing Bauer’s story. “We need to be aware that stuff like ethnic cleansing and genocide is still out there, it is still happening,” she said.

About Zam Anwar