Dr. Alex Hershaft, a Holocaust survivor, can still vividly recall seeing the wall being built in Warsaw, Poland when he was just a young man. To hear his story is to understand the power of the spoken word and the importance of story to our history as a species. In this episode, Dr. Hershaft and I discuss his story of being forced into the Warsaw ghetto; his escape from the guards, with the help of a friend; and his eventual move to the United States where he pursued a PhD in Inorganic Chemistry at UCLA. On a business trip to a slaughterhouse, he was faced with a picture that he wasn't expecting, a sight that would impact the remainder of his life. He co-founded the group F.A.R.M. (Farm Animal Rights Movement). I ask Dr. Hershaft some difficult questions in this episode, including why he believes human beings could be a part of such atrocities as the Holocaust, and if he found any pockets of goodness in the world during his horrifying ordeal. His answers the second question are alone worth spending some time listening to this episode. On a related but somewhat side note, I introduce my wonderful dog Watson to the audience. It seemed fitting, given how much Dr. Hershaft loves animals.
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02:23 Watson, the greatest dog in the world
03:04 A story of survival
14:22 Three examples of good in a dark world
24:18 What makes a person turn to evil?
33:17 How norms can fan the flames of hatred
34:14 Why pursue a PhD?
36:11 How a trip to the slaughterhouse changed everything
46:13 The importance of finding community
51:12 Final question: what makes you hopeful?
52:11 I receive a compliment I will never forget
52:45 Closing thoughts and thank you
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