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April 11, 2018

Holocaust Survivor Share Personal Struggle to Escape Nazis

Sonja Maier Geismar Keynote Speaker for Yom HaShoah

Without the courage of a German captain who hated the Nazis, Sonja Maier Geismar and hundreds of other Jews fleeing Germany on the ill-fated voyage of the St. Louis would never have survived to tell their tale of escape from the Holocaust.

(Watch Sonja's Story)

Geismar, just four at the time of the trip told her story as the keynote speaker for the College's annual Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day event on Wednesday, April 11, 2018.

Maier Geismar was one of more than 900 mostly Jewish passengers who were denied entry to Cuba, and later rejected from landing in the United States and Canada. The ship was forced back to Europe where the passengers were split up across the continent. More than 250 died at the hands of the Nazis.

sonja maier geismar

Following the St. Louis voyage, Sonja, who was born in the state of Baden in southwest Germany, and her family went to England for 8 months and immigrated to the U.S. before World War II. The transition was difficult for her parents, filled with struggles, but they succeeded in building good lives. A resident of New York City, she was a high school librarian and currently is an adjunct librarian. With the passing of the older generation, Holocaust denial, and current increasing anti-Semitism, she feels an obligation to speak about the Nazi era and its impact.

St. Francis holds its annual event so the entire community can learn lessons from the Holocaust as well as to keep alive the memories of those who perished and those who survived to tell of the atrocities.

St. Francis College, founded in 1859 by the Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn, is located in Brooklyn Heights, N.Y. Since its founding, the College has pursued its Franciscan mission to provide an affordable, high-quality education to students from New York City's five boroughs and beyond.

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