Social Media Director
May 15, 2017
On April 28th, Holocaust survivor Edith Mayer Cord recalled her fascinating yet dreadful experience growing up in Austria and constantly running from the Nazis for Mrs. Payne’s freshman English class.
Cord’s story began when she was a young girl growing up in Austria, living a seemingly normal life. However, when Hitler rose to power in the 1930s and passed the Nuremberg Laws, discriminatory ordinances designed to persecute European Jews, the Cord family moved to Italy. However, at the same time, Italian dictator Mussolini and his government also passed laws to restrict Jews. Cord was kicked out of school, and her dad lost his job.
Then Cord took refuge in France, matriculating at a school in Nice. When Cord was twelve, her father was sent to a concentration camp, so she took extra precautions to ensure her Jewish identity remained a secret to the public. She was eventually discovered, so she smuggled herself into Switzerland, where she learned English.
After the war, Cord lived in a slum with no running water. It took her seven years to save uo enough to immigrate to the United States, but after two weeks of living in America, she had a job where she earned only one dollar an hour. Arriving with little education, Cord persisted in her schoolwork. She passed all her classes and earned a master’s degree.
One of the major things that Cord talked about was the importance of education and the how all students take it for granted. She wanted to make sure we knew it should be valued.
“We are investing in our future. In a few years we will have kids, you will be married. Right now it’s about you. Take advantage of [your education]. You need to know a lot in this world. Being ignorant is a terrible feeling,” Cord said.
Cord’s story inspired the freshman who attended her lecture. Hannah Matrangola spoke about the lessons she learned from Ms. Cord.
“No matter how much you think school is difficult and hard, your education is important.”
Another student offered her impressions: “I was astounded by the violence and the measures used by the Nazis. It was horrifying.”
Cord also stressed the importance of tolerance and allowing various opinions in our society. The Nazis were able to succeed in their heinous agenda because people were brainwashed into thinking one way; they silenced opposing views. She said that her story is important for people to hear so they understand how beautiful freedom is.
“Our freedom is precious and we need to understand what it takes to be free. We need to be informed so we make wise decisions. You need to know have knowledge and understanding to know if it works. You need to figure things out. That’s why we must open up to other opinions.”
Since the ninth grade English curriculum covers the Holocaust, Mrs. Payne, who invited Cord, felt that all students should hear her stories and how she was able to be successful despite the hardships in her childhood.
“I felt it was important that the students hear a happier ending, versus what we hear in Elie Wiesel’s Night. No matter what you’re going through, there is a way to overcome.”
Cord handed the students a poem that she wrote after the Boston Marathon and the Kenyan massacres. She also gave students a list of 10 lessons she learned from her life. Together, lessons seven and eight state:
“Take advantage of the wonderful opportunities society offers you. Most especially, honor your teachers and make the most of your schooling. Remember that everything can be taken away from you, except what’s in your head. But knowledge is not enough. What is needed is a moral compass.”
This should resonate with all people, regardless of age, race, or place of origin. We must take education seriously and not take it for granted. Yet once we have our knowledge, we must use it to better the world. Cord’s story reflects what can happen when knowledge is used to destroy. It is up to the future generation to learn, listen to others, and make decisions to better the lives of those around us rather than using trying to limit the opposition and use our knowledge for destruction.