Holocaust survivor returns to Park City to share his story
Stephen Nasser to offer a message of tolerance, resilience to students
The Park Record
There is no better way to learn about the Holocaust than from one who survived it. That is why, this week, Park City schools will host Stephen Nasser, an author, lecturer and playwright, who will speak about his personal experiences in the Auschwitz and Muhldorf Concentration Camps during World War II.
Nasser agreed to leave retirement to speak at Treasure Mountain Junior High and Park City High School because of Tiana and Sam Aplanalp, who met Nasser in 2004 when he spoke at a school in Las Vegas where Tiana was teaching. The Alpanalps reached out to him again since Tiana wanted her students at Treasure Mountain and others to hear his story once more, especially while learning about WWII in their curriculum.
“It’s one thing to read about the Holocaust and all of the atrocities, but it’s another thing to meet someone who survived and lived the experience and hear them talk about it,” she said.
Nasser will speak about his survival story, infused with the importance of hope, a positive attitude and a relationship with God when struggling through trials. He will focus on his book, “My Brother’s Voice,” which speaks of his experiences as a 13-year-old boy entering Auschwitz with 21 members of his family and leaving as the sole survivor. The book grew out of his secret diary where he recorded his life in the camps.
He will lecture at Treasure Mountain Junior High on Thursday and Park City High School on Friday during the school day, but will also give free public lectures on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at South Summit Middle School and Thursday at 6 p.m. at Park City High School. There will be time for Q&A with the audience as well as a book signing.
The Aplanalps initially asked Nasser to come to Park City back in March, then later partnered with Dan Compton, library director of Summit County Library, after they too expressed interest in bringing him in. Nasser does not charge any speaking fees, but his travel and other expenses are sponsored by The Summit County Library, Park City Library, South Summit School District, Park City School District and Rotary Park City. A local family, Jody and Stewart Gross, offered their condo.
While it does seem like an opportune time to discuss anti-Semitism due to recent national events such as riots in Charlottesville, Virginia, the couple is clear that this is not meant to be any type of political statement.
“We want people to come and hear the message of an incredible man,” Sam said. “This is likely the last speaking engagement he’ll give. It’s a big deal to have it be the last one right here in Park City, Utah.”
Last time Nasser was in Park City in 2008, he spoke to an audience with standing room only at the Sheldon Richins Building Auditorium in the Summit County Library. Sam and Tiana are hopeful that people will fill the space as they did before. Opportunities to hear from those who survived the Holocaust are becoming more and more sparse, they said.
There are many lessons students and the public can walk away with after listening to Nasser speak, but the Alpanalps hope people will focus on tolerance and resilience ringing throughout his message.
“None of the kids are ever going to go through what he had to go through, but in their own way, they might be going through personal battles. Maybe addiction, maybe mental illness,” Sam said. “Maybe his story will inspire them to overcome and to keep fighting. I would hope that it would teach them those type of things, as well as how we look at our fellow man and treat those around us with differing views.”
A Park City High School senior facing 18 criminal charges admitted to releasing pepper spray in the school’s lecture hall last month to prevent a conservative school club from hosting an event.