Eighth graders at The Summit Country Day School recently read “Night” by Elie Wiesel, a story of Holocaust atrocities, and then heard about history directly from the son of two Holocaust survivors.
Steve Coppel has continued to spread his late father’s message, “Stand up against hate and prejudice even if it does not affect you,” to today’s youth in an effort to ensure that the inhumanities suffered during Hitler’s reign are never again tolerated.
After describing the persecution endured by his parents and millions of Jews in the 1940s, Coppel went on to emphasize that there are four types of people in the world – victims, perpetrators, bystanders and upstanders. “We are all one. If you separate people by group and mark them, you can attack that group,” he said, referring to the yellow star of David badge and alluding to other identifying marks or labels used in modern times.
According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, during Nazi control, Jews were required to wear the badge to “stigmatize and humiliate them but also to segregate them, to watch and control their movements, and to prepare for deportation.”
Coppel’s goal was to inspire students to understand how hate and prejudice inflict harm on humanity. “Stand up when you see someone mistreated,” he concluded. “Think about the present, remember the past and consider the future.”
“Words have power; use them wisely.”
Coppel's father, Werner Coppel, spent several decades speaking out about the lessons we can learn from the Holocaust. As a teenager, he escaped the Nazis during the infamous “Death March” from Auschwitz concentration camp at the end of World War II. Read more in this obituary, published after his death in 2016 at age 91.