As antisemitic incidents surge, Holocaust survivor speaks out: 'Why else did I survive?'

ByMichael Perchick WTVD logo
Thursday, November 9, 2023
Triangle Holocaust survivor speaks up as antisemitism rises
In the weeks following Hamas terrorist attack in Israel, there has been a stark rise of Antisemitic incidents across the United States.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- In the weeks following Hamas terrorist attack in Israel, there has been a stark rise of Antisemitic incidents across the United States, alarming members of the Jewish community.

For Renée Fink, the increase is unfortunately not surprising.

"Jews are very much alone, and it cuts very deep. This October 7th event in Israel cuts very, very deep. And my first question is, 'is this never going to stop,'" said Fink.

For Fink, it's a question which dates back to her childhood.

"I went into hiding when I was four years old," she said.

Fink's family was German. They fled the country in 1933, the year Adolf Hitler became Chancellor.

Four years later, Fink was born in the Netherlands. Fearful of the Nazis growing power and continued invasion of Europe, Fink's parents placed her with a Dutch Catholic family.

"I didn't know that I was Jewish," shared Fink, who recalled learning the rosary amongst other things in an effort to conceal her identity.

Her parents hid on a houseboat, where they were eventually caught and taken to Auschwitz.

"We never saw each other again," said Fink.

After the war, Fink came to the United States to live with a relative, where she began to learn more about her Jewish heritage. However, it wasn't until the 1990's that she gained a better understanding of her upbringing, when she participated in a conference with other children hidden during the Holocaust.

"Before the weekend was up, we were told as the last generation to bear witness to the Holocaust, we were charged with speaking about it," said Fink.

She's spent the past few decades speaking locally and nationally, meeting with people of all ages, including students, to discuss the Holocaust and dangers of Antisemitism.

"This is not easy for people to hear that we all have a responsibility. We have to show courage and know what's going on. And only by learning about the Holocaust, learning history in general, would people be more aware of the danger signs," Fink said, noting she's received a warm reception during speaking engagements.

Antisemitic incidents were on the rise prior to the October 7th attacks, with Fink specifically describing the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville as the "most gut-wrenching event that I remember in this country." The recent surge, which FBI Director Christopher Wray noted reached historic levels, has been particularly disheartening.

"A world-altering event like the Holocaust doesn't begin with concentration camps. It begins with words. And we're hearing words now. We're hearing them in America, we're hearing them throughout the world," said Fink.

Such incidents only embolden her to continue her work in combatting hate.

"Why else did I survive?" said Fink.