ALBERT LEA, Minn. - In 1937, Manny Gabler's family fled Germany to the only country that was accepting refugees at the time: Shanghai, China. He was just one year old when his family arrived.
Manny's family lived in a Jewish ghetto and he attended a Hebrew school. He tells KIMT his schooling was great, but his family struggled to feed themselves. The Chinese families around them were equally poor. His family lived there for 9 years before taking a boat to the United States and eventually becoming citizens.
On Tuesday, Gabler shared his life story front of an auditorium of 10th-12th graders at Albert Lea High School, and again at Southwest Middle School. Now an 80-year-old man living in Minneapolis, Gabler has spoken to students about 50 times. "Unless somebody goes looking for it, they don't really get any education about the Holocaust... Talking to them like this, they know what it's about and it may spark some interest or understanding that there doesn't have to be bigotry in the world and if somebody says 'there was no Holocaust'... they can be the storytellers and say, 'I saw a guy that was one.' I think that's really important."
Being able to speak on behalf of the millions of people who died in the Holocaust, as well as those who did survive but are no longer living, he says he "feels very good about doing that, because I give them some words that they couldn't speak."
Gabler expressed that the move to Shanghai saved his, his parents' and his brother's lives. Students had the opportunity to ask him questions after his presentation. One student asked him what his thoughts are on the current refugee situation in America, as he was once a refugee.
"I think for a country of 330 million people that we can't have compassion for 10,000 refugees, that's pretty sick. I think it's terrible. These people, they're not bad people, they're family people trying to save their kids from a country where they could be killed... Hitler, being a great salesman I guess, used the Jews to make himself a hero and that's happening all over again."
When asked what it's like to hear about other genocides that have happened or are happening around the world, Gabler says,"I think we haven't learned anything."
At Southwest Middle School, 7th and some 6th graders can now take an elective class called Holocaust Studies. This is the first year it's been in place.