Holocaust survivor shares her story at MCCC

A young girl living with her parents in a labor camp just south of the Arctic Circle had a small birthday celebration. During that time, her mother asked her, “If the war wasn’t happening, what would you want for your birthday?” The young girl responded, “A big loaf of bread and as much of it as I can eat.” Her mother burst into tears at her answer. 

This young girl was Irene Miller, now one of the few living Holocaust survivors. Miller chose to share her story with MCCC on Thursday in the Meyer Theater.  

Miller’s visit was marked by her sharing personal experiences as a Holocaust survivor. Miller recounted her journey from Poland to Siberia, detailing the challenges she faced. She emphasized the power of resilience and the significance of humankind. 

Her presentation was a powerful reminder for viewers to never forget the past and to work toward a better future.  

“The future lies in the hands of our new generation,” Miller said. “It’s our responsibility to equip them with the knowledge and values to build a better world.” 

In her speech, Miller took listeners on a poignant journey through her life as a Holocaust survivor.  She detailed her struggles in Poland and her strenuous journey to Siberia. She spoke about the harsh conditions, fear and hunger she experienced. 

Despite the hardships, Miller described the acts of kindness that gave her hope, emphasizing the power of resilience and the human spirit.  

Izzy Haynes, a student at MCCC who was in attendance, shared their thoughts. 

“I find human rights movements to be incredibly powerful, and I think it’s the best use of my time,” Haynes said.

Haynes said they knew who Irene Miller was, through a close friend of theirs, before the announcement of her presentation. They learned that Miller was a speaker for the Detroit Institute of Arts. 

When asked how they felt about the speech, Haynes said it put things into perspective. 

Miller’s story had an impact on the audience, and the room was filled with a mix of emotions.  

Kojo Quartey, president of MCCC, said he felt profound sadness about Miller’s experiences and the current conflict with the Israel-Hamas war. He said he was deeply moved by Miller’s childhood and was equally distressed that innocent children are facing similar challenges today. 

He said he felt strong emotions during the presentation.  

“I held my head down because I was on the verge of tears,” Quartey said. 

He said he firmly believes that silence is not an option.

“If we sit around and do nothing, history will repeat itself,” Quartey said.

Irene Miller, author of “Into No Man’s Land: A Historical Memoir” shared her story of surviving the Holocaust on Nov. 16 in the Meyer Theater. (Photos by Reese Bowling.)
Projected onto a screen in the Meyer Theater was a photo of Holocaust survivor Irene Miller as a young girl. Miller spoke about her experiences during the Holocaust on Nov. 16 in the La-Z-Boy Center.
Located in the La-Z-Boy Center, outside of the Meyer Theater, was a table of copies of Irene Miller’s book, “Into No Man’s Land: A Historical Memoir” along with newspaper clippings of previous events she attended.
MCCC President Kojo Quartey greets the crowd before introducing Irene Miller. Miller spoke about her experiences during the Holocaust on Nov. 16 inside the Meyer Theater.
MCCC students line up to sign in at the La-Z-Boy Center to listen to Holocaust survivor Irene Miller share her story. Students who signed in got class credit and a copy of Miller’s book, “Into No Man’s Land: A Historical Memoir.”