Holocaust Survivor to Speak in Kalispell

By Beacon Staff

Noémi Shoënberger Ban, a native of Hungary who survived the Holocaust, is scheduled to speak in Kalispell about her experience during World War II. Ban, 89, will present to students and faculty at Flathead High School May 16, and will offer a free, public presentation at Glacier High School May 17 at 7 p.m.

Ban is an educator who has been speaking publicly about her Holocaust experience since the 1990s.

“There are not that many more years when we’re going to have first-hand accounts of what happened during the Holocaust,” Darryl Kistler, pastor of the United Church of Christ in Kalispell who was active in the effort to bring Ban to the Flathead Valley, said. “To put a face on it – like a real, human face – that opportunity is slipping by.”

“I think she is going to inspire a lot of people,” he added.

Currently a resident of Bellingham, Wash., Ban was 21 when Nazis marched into Debrecen, Hungary in 1944, according to a news release issued by Kistler in advance of her presentation. Her father was sent to a forced labor camp, while she and the rest of her family ended up at Auschwitz. There, Ban was separated from the rest of her family, and though they did not survive she managed to escape while being transferred to another camp.

Ban reunited with her father in 1945, and married and settled in Budapest, where she became a teacher and had two sons before fleeing communist rule and escaping to Austria in 1956.

The next year she and her family immigrated to the United States and were transferred to St. Louis, Miss. Ban received an honorary doctorate of law from Gonzaga University in 1999. She co-authored an autobiography describing her camp experiences titled, “Sharing is Healing,” and is the subject of a documentary, “My Name is Noémi.”

That film will be shown May 18 at 7 p.m. at Central Christian Church, and both Ban and the filmmaker, Jim Lortz, will be available for questions afterward.

Although Ban’s speaking engagements come on the heels of a scheduled speech by prominent Holocaust denier David Irving in Kalispell May 4, Kistler emphasized the timing was purely coincidental, and that he and others have been working on bringing Ban to the Flathead to speak for months. Kistler noted, however, that in light of groups showing films over the course of the last year at the Kalispell library glorifying Nazis and denying the Holocaust, Ban represents a very different perspective: “Having somebody who can speak with authority about what happened is paramount.”

Ban’s speaking events are being co-sponsored by Community Congregational Church, Bet Harim Synagogue, Central Christian Church, FHS International Baccalaureate Programme, Love Lives Here Kalispell and the Montana Human Rights Network. For more information call Darryl Kistler at 270-0603 or Central Christian Church at 755-5265.

Also on May 4 at 7 p.m., Love Lives Here will be hosting a Holocaust remembrance event at the KM Theatre in Kalispell, showing the 30-minute documentary, “Choosing One’s Way: Resistance in Auschwitz/Birkenau.”

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