In part one of this interview, Sami Steigmann spoke about his personal experiences as a survivor of the Holocaust, and as someone who felt isolated for many years due in part to the fact that he was an in-betweener of sorts – both the son of Holocaust survivors and a survivor himself who was too young to remember what was done to him. We also discussed the need for Holocaust education, as well as the long-term fight against bigotry and hatred more broadly.
The following is the rest of my interview with Sami Steigmann. Click here to read part one.
Speaking about his goals as a motivational speaker, Steigmann said:
Number one, all the tragedies in the world – genocide, Holocaust – can be summarized with one word: bullying. You can bully a person, you can bully a group of people. In most cases, and even during the Holocaust, there was a lot of silence, people were bystanders, and what I want to do is make sure that young people will not be afraid to become upstanders. When they see the slightest injustice, they have to do something about it. There are certain things that young people can do to make this a better world.
Secondly, what I want them to do is I want them to become knowledgeable. It’s extremely important, you know? You can change someone’s perspective, but that change must be completed by them. You’re not going to convince somebody else if you are not knowledgeable in a subject, and what I want them to do once they become knowledgeable, I want them to mentor one person – but not somebody that already has his or her mind made up – you’re not going to change them because they talk from emotion. I want them to mentor someone who has an open mind. Then, once they mentor the person, I want them to make sure that that person will mentor somebody else. It will take a long time to diminish the hatred. Hate will always be there.
The Nazis and ISIS, they are not regular criminals. They have an ideology and you see what happened in Sri Lanka and other places, in Pittsburgh, when somebody has an ideology, they are willing to die for it, they are willing to murder for it. That cannot be destroyed by guns. The only way you can destroy it is through education. It takes a very long time, but they have to mentor other people and slowly, one by one, that will diminish the hatred that we have in this world.
“What happens if we continue on the path that we’re on, and people don’t mentor and educate others?” I asked. Steigmann replied that if we fail to learn from history, it will continue cyclically:
Well, the best way I can say it is, if people don’t learn from history, history will repeat itself. Take a look at ISIS as an example. ISIS did not go against Israel, it did not go against the Jews because Israel is a strong country. Who do they go against? The Christians. Take a look what they did to the Christians in Egypt, the Copts. Take a look what they did in Sri Lanka. What I’m trying to say in a different way is, all the hatred started with the targeting of the Jews, but it does not end there.
Lastly, I asked if there was anything that he might want our readership to know. Steigmann then spoke about the oppression of a Chinese minority people:
When I was invited to speak on behalf of the Uyghur people in front of the U.N. and also in Washington D.C., I had never heard about them. I did not know who they were. They asked me if I would be willing to do it, which obviously I am, but they want to arrange for me to come and speak in front of the Congress, so for me that would be like a double. I can talk about the history of the Holocaust, about my life, but I can also talk on behalf of the Uyghur people and what’s happening in China.
Unfortunately, there is no other country besides the United States that can put pressure, economic pressure, on China to free the Uyghur people that are in “re-education camps,” and they’re basically like concentration camps. So, they want to make sure that they are giving up their heritage and they adopt the Chinese culture. Family members don’t know what’s happening with them, and aren’t able to get in touch with them.
For instance, during World War II, something that maybe you don’t know, a lot of the Jews from the former Soviet Union went to Uzbekistan, to Azerbaijan, and there were Muslims, and how come these Muslims were not against the Jews? Because they were Uyghur people. When the former Soviet Union dissolved, they gained their independence. In China, they don’t allow them to be free. So, I have to speak, you know, people like me, like other people, have to speak on their behalf and on behalf of other groups of people. If you look at it, you know, you don’t hear about it in the news, so you don’t know anything about it. There is silence.
Here is another example. As far as I know – maybe they are more – but to my knowledge, there are only seven states that mandate and teach genocide and Holocaust as part of the curriculum.
Steigmann then turned the tables, and asked me a question:
Okay, so obviously you’re not Jewish. The question that I’m having for you is how do you see what’s happening today in this world, especially right now what happened in Sri Lanka, in other places, and in Egypt against the Christians? And how do you feel the world should fight it? I’m interested from a Christian perspective, and you’re also a journalist.
I see it much the same way you described it, which is that there are certain ideologies – in the case of Sri Lanka and in the case of most of the attacks that are occurring in the Middle East and in Africa – it’s a radical Islamic ideology that is being used to “other” people and kill them. I think one way it can be stopped – well, it will never be stopped, I don’t think these types of things can ever be stopped – but I think I agree with you that one way we can try to diminish this carnage is through soft power coming from the United States, and education.
If you ask the average person on the street about the details of the ideologies that motivate and animate these crimes, most won’t be able to tell you. I think people need to be made made aware of the ideological underpinnings of the hatred that’s driving the attacks.
Steigmann then reiterated his purpose:
My main goal when I go to schools and universities – other Holocaust survivors, they speak about what happened to them, and involuntarily, I don’t think that they intend it, you feel sorry for them – I don’t go for that. For me, the Holocaust is the background. I do not have a story to tell because I have no memory of that period of time. So, for me, I became a motivational speaker and I use personal examples, difficult challenges that I had to overcome.
He also mentioned his former struggle with homelessness, adding that a “third of the Holocaust survivors in the United States live under the poverty line.” Click here to watch a CNN video pertaining to that topic.
When I tell those stories, I do not want people to feel sorry for me. What I want them to do is to learn how I overcame because I tell them how I overcame. I want them to make sure that they will never give up, never lose hope under any circumstance, and to use me as an example.
The Daily Wire would like to thank Mr. Steigmann for speaking with us. For more information, visit his website here.
Additionally, click here to learn about the Reghina, Nathan, Sami Steigmann Family Peace and Tolerance Education Fund, the money from which currently goes to honor outstanding students and adults on an annual basis who work in the community to fight various forms of hatred and bigotry.
Lastly, watch the video below in which Sami Steigmann tells his story, and explains the need for Holocaust education: