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One Holocaust Survivor and His Connection to the Viatorian Community

May 24, 2016

Steen Metz is a member of the Speakers’ Bureau with the Illinois Holocaust Museumhead shot of Metz and over the last four years he has told his story to thousands  of people — mostly students — of his childhood spent in a Nazi concentration camp.

His story — and video — hit home with students at Saint Viator High School when Metz came to share his testimony. After all, he is one of them. His granddaughter, Sarah McDermott, is a freshman at the school and now is being educated by Viatorians and their charism.

Steen Metz presenting at Saint Viator High School, with his granddaughter, Sarah McDermott '19, helping with slides

Steen Metz presenting at Saint Viator High School, with his granddaughter, Sarah McDermott ’19, helping with slides

“You are the last generation to hear from a survivor,” Metz told the nearly 800 freshmen, sophomores and juniors gathered. “I need you to tell my story so people never forget.”

Metz took it one step further. He asked the students to tell at least four people about what they heard — and that way he will have reached nearly 30,000 people from that one appearance.

A childhood photo of Metz in Denmark, before being deported in 1943

A childhood photo of Metz in Denmark, before being deported in 1943

He has documented his story in a book, called “A Danish Boy in Theresienstadt: Reflections of a Holocaust Survivor,” which he presented to the school.

Metz shared with students the details he remembers of the Gestapo knocking on the door of his family’s apartment in 1943 in Odense, Denmark, being taken by boxcar over three days to Theresienstadt, a work camp in Czechoslovakia.

His father would die of starvation within six months, but he and his mother survived their 18-months “in hell,” as Metz told students.Steen Metz_edit

He later learned that 15,000 children had passed through that camp and only 10 percent survived. Metz only started sharing his story publicly in 2011, and now he says it is his passion.

Fr. Corey Brost, CSV, president of Saint Viator, encouraged students to not only tell Metz’s story to four people, but to stand up against bigotry, hatred and stereotypes of other religions.

“I feel like we’re standing in the presence of greatness, of goodness — and of holiness,” Fr. Brost said to Metz. “We have been blessed to have heard this story from an angel.”