Holocaust survivor shares experience with Cascade students

Posted at 4:32 PM, Oct 10, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-11 12:12:40-04

CASCADE — Nearly a century after one of the most horrific genocides in human history, the holocaust is an event in history we still talk about today. The murder of 6-million Jewish people became a turning point in history, one of the key factors in World War Two.

As a way of sharing this historic event, Cascade Public Schools welcomed Holocaust survivor, Peter Metzelaar to tell his story.

Peter was born in Amsterdam in 1935. In 1942, at the age of seven, the Nazis seized his entire family except for Peter and his mother. Peter's mother contacted the Dutch Underground for help. That was when the Underground found Klaas and Roefina Post who agreed to shelter Peter and his mother on their small farm in northern Holland, putting their own lives at risk.

Describing his emotions, Metzelaar said, "there was the fear and recognition that it was in the hands of my mother. It was also in the hands of the farmers who were willing to risk their own lives to hide us. The security was my mom. I didn't make the policies to go from one place to another. I was seven, eight years old."

Peter and his mother were the only ones in his family who survived the Holocaust. After the war, Peter and his mother immigrated to the United States in 1949. Peter didn't speak any English but was placed in the 8th grade. He said learning the language was his biggest challenge.

"There were a lot of mixed-up words, words I didn't know, some of them I did know, and some of them I mispronounced," Metzelaar said. "It took several years. Still, I mess up sometimes today. I've been here for 65 years, and I became a citizen 60 years ago."

Over the course of time, Peter had a long career as a radiology technologist. Him and his wife Bea raised two children from Pete's previous marriage and had a third son in California. The Metzelaars moved to Seattle in 1997. Peter remains to be an active member of the Holocaust Center for Humanity's Speakers Bureau, hosting various speaking events.

"I don't like to just read things off," Metzelaar said. "I speak of it as I remember it and some emotions come out."

Cascade High School Social Studies Teacher Amanda Brown organized the event. She explained why having a speaker provides a more unique learning experience.

"History comes alive when you have a real presenter come in and talk about it," Brown said. "Kids are more engaged and slowly we aren't going to have these in-person accounts. In 10-15 years, we are going to lose this history and only read about it. It is so important to not lose that one-in-one history and it is so important to be able to talk to these people that experienced it. To bring that person in is life changing, life altering, and so important for these students and adults that are going to be able to come and listen to Pete."