September 19, 2017, BY Mike Ferlazzo

Holocaust speaker
Professor Bill Gruver (far left) and Rabbi Chana Leslie Glazer thank Irene Skolnick for her BTE talk. Photo by Mike Ferlazzo

After seeing the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble's (BTE) production of The Diary of Anne Frank, a near-capacity audience in BTE's Alvina Krause Theatre heard Holocaust survivor Irene Skolnick tell an eerily similar tale of hiding as a Jew under Nazi occupation during World War II.

She told the audience how the play - based on a diary kept by Frank while she was in hiding for two years with her family during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands - exemplified two themes of how Jews survived the Holocaust.

"First, you had to be lucky," Skolnick said. "And second was the ability to think on your feet. You had to be aware of the surroundings around you and be prepared to act appropriately."

Skolnick's family survived by changing their identities. They obtained false papers and passed themselves off as Catholic Poles.

But their plan's success depended on three things.

"First, you couldn't look Jewish," Skolnick said.

"Second, you had to speak perfect Polish, since Jews in Poland spoke Yiddish," she continued.

"And third, if you were going to pass as Catholic, you better know something about Catholicism."

Skolnick's talk generated several questions from the audience, including one by Bucknell student Stephanie Person '21, who said she was moved by the event.

"Events like this are not just important to people who are Jewish, like me. They're even more important to people who aren't Jewish," Person said. "It's important to keep these events alive because the Holocaust happened, but you don't have to be Jewish to remember it and learn from it."

Skolnick's appearance was co-sponsored by Bucknell's Office of Campus Jewish Life and Professor William Gruver, the Howard I. Scott Chair in Global Commerce, Strategy & Leadership. Rabbi Chana Leslie Glazer, Bucknell chaplain for Jewish life, introduced Skolnick, while Gruver provided post-talk remarks and a gift.

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