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Sunday, May 1, 2016

'A human orchestra'

Tuesday, April 3, 2001

Holocaust survivor brings his mission to Storm Lake children.

Cantor Leo Fettman's left leg is longer than his right. He wears a lift in his shoe to help correct the problem, which was caused after a Nazi shattered his leg.

Fettman once sat with a noose around his neck, waiting for the small stool he stood on to be kicked away. When it was, he dropped like a rock, he recalled. But the rope broke, saving his life.

He was congratulated by the camp commander. Fettman asked if he would be hung again. "You cannot be punished twice for the same crime," the Nazi told him.

Fettman said he was angry after the war, but no longer feels that hatred. Now he feels sorry for those who helped kill his parents, his relatives, his people.

"Who is responsible? All these people, governments. There's very many people guilty in this," he told students at the Storm Lake High School and Middle School this week.

While Fettman's life is as much about the Holocaust - with its death camps, trains packed full of human beings, and all of the cruelty directed at Jews as well as other groups - Fettman says after the war his life became a journey about survival, moving on and healing.

"I'm trying to create a beautiful human orchestra," Fettman said. "Regardless of what topic I am speaking of, I have learned respect for people different than we are."

Fettman does not lecture about the Holocaust, but rather teaches students about Jewish religion and culture, while also telling the story of just one Holocaust survivor. He is an educator, said high school teacher Jim Nichols.

"Am I different than you are?" Fettman asked the students.

"No," they replied.

"Yes, I am. I wear this thing over my head," he said, pointing at his yarmulke. "I eat kosher. Under my clothes I wear a prayer shawl."

Read the rest of this story in the 3/31 Pilot Tribune.

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