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Auschwitz survivor donates to Holocaust studies program

Auschwitz survivor donates to Holocaust studies program

March 4, 2019 at 12:00am

Tibor Hollo and his wife, Sheila Hollo

Auschwitz survivor and renowned Miami developer Tibor Hollo believes the Holocaust is being forgotten.

It all started with a conversation with a teen.

“A supplier of mine came into my office with his son,” said Hollo, chairman and president of Florida East Coast Realty. “Somehow, the conversation turned to the Holocaust… the kid looked confused, but I didn’t push it because I didn’t want to embarrass him.”

As a Holocaust survivor, the issue is personal.

Since that conversation, he has made it his mission to bring awareness to different Holocaust events – starting with a significant donation to the Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs Holocaust and Genocide Studies Program, designed to provide Holocaust awareness for the university and South Florida communities.

A survey recently found that millennials – defined as people ages 18 to 34 – lack basic knowledge about the Holocaust. Forty-one percent of millennials who took the survey did not know how many Jews were killed during the Holocaust and 66 percent could not say what Auschwitz was.

“I wanted to create a curriculum about the Holocaust within,” said Hollo, who in 2012 also made a gift that established the Tibor and Sheila Hollo School of Real Estate at FIU’s College of Business. “[I wanted] to make the youth aware.”

Hollo looked to history and noted the holocausts of the past.

He looked at massacres that occurred before in the past, as well as at world wars and shootings across America – focusing on the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School last February.

“Yes, all of these are holocausts,” he said. “Is there ever a day where you don’t see people killing? A father kills a baby, his wife and then himself… A fellow walks into a school and kills 17 people… People ask why he did it. [He] had the holocaust within… We all have it because we are the murderer’s men.”

For Hollo, it is vital that schools begin to teach about holocausts and genocides.

“It’s holocaust after holocaust,” he said. “The stepping stones of our history are all wars. War, war and more war.”

With Hollo’s donation, the Holocaust and Genocide Studies Program will increase its outreach, said Oren B. Stier, director of the program and professor of religious studies.

“We are incredibly grateful for what Mr. Hollo has allowed us to do. [His] gift launched us into the next level. Now, we have funds to get the word out and do more, [thus] enhancing existing activities.”

The program began offering an undergraduate certificate in Holocaust and Genocide Studies in the fall of 2018. The certificate provides a multidisciplinary approach for understanding and analyzing the global phenomenon of genocide.

Available to degree-seeking and non-degree-seeking students, the certificate is of particular interest to secondary school teachers looking for increased credentials to meet the state mandate in Holocaust education, Stier said.

Hollo’s contribution has allowed the program to partner with FIU’s School of Education and Human Development to offer a workshop to help future teachers gain insight on teaching the Holocaust, as well as to promote, through the program, the educational application of first-person testimonies, among other things.

The goal is to develop a curriculum and to offer scholarships for students, graduate research, study abroad programs, campus and community events and more.