Samantha Krantz was going through security at Charleston International Airport a couple of years ago when a stranger behind her in line asked her a question.
“You actually believed that happened?” he said, pointing at her thick textbook on the Holocaust as she placed it into a screening bin.
Boy, did he ask the right person. As an Honors College double major in Jewish Studies and public health, Krantz was more than happy – and intellectually armed – to educate him, despite her soft-spoken nature.
“He was skeptical,” she says. “But I told him about the survivors who had come to our class and how well documented it is. You cannot make up the PTSD the survivors are still going through.”
Survivors like Charleston resident Joe Engel, the subject of a new documentary, To Auschwitz and Back: The Joe Engel Story, which will screen this Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018, at 7 p.m. at the Terrace Theater. The film, by local documentarian Ron Small, recounts Engel’s time spent in the concentration camp, his escape at age 17 from a speeding death train and joining the Polish resistance. Following the screening, Krantz, who befriended Engel in 2015 during a class visit, will talk about some of the work she’s done on behalf of Holocaust awareness before introducing Engel. She will also work with Small in the coming months to get other survivors on camera.
The great-grandchild of a Holocaust survivor, Krantz is committed to ensuring that those who perished in the Holocaust are never forgotten. She is the youngest member of the Charleston Jewish Federation’s Remember Program, which provides educational resources to Charleston area schools, including bringing in survivors like Engel to share their stories.
“Her generation has to be the conduit to the next generation,” says Small, who first met Krantz during the Daffodil Project ceremony in Marion Square in November 2016. “What a great representative she is for that. I’ve never met someone her age, let alone older, who is as passionate and compassionate as Samantha.”
Krantz, who is also president of the College’s Hillel chapter, the worldwide Jewish campus organization, is a recipient of the Klaper Fellowship in Jewish Studies. She says it was the appeal of the College’s top-notch Jewish Studies Program that brought her here. The College offers a number of Holocaust-related classes, including “Nazi Medicine” — one of the only undergraduate courses of its kind in the country.
“All of the other schools I looked at didn’t have a Jewish Studies program that stood out like it does here,” says Krantz, a junior who hopes to attend medical school after graduation. “It’s a very special place, and we’re very lucky to have eight survivors here in town, like Joe, who are willing to come to talk to the students. They are the last living insight we have of what happened over there. People try to deny it and Joe has his number tattooed on his arm. How do you deny that?”
Tickets for the screening are $12.50 for general admission and $18 for reserved seating. The Terrace Theater is donating all proceeds from the screening to the Charleston Jewish Federation Remember Program and Emanuel Synagogue Holocaust Fund. Order tickets online at terracetheater.com.