The following is part of a series of stories which will run in conjunction with an exciting new weekly radio program by AARP Illinois. The weekly program, called "Creating the Good," showcases the stories of inspiring older adults in Illinois, and can be heard statewide on affiliates of the Illinois Radio Network.
Words have power, power to divide as well as unite.
That is the message that friends Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago, and Fritzie Fritzshall, President of the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center, would like people to remember from their longtime friendship.
“I think we all need to stop labeling each other,” says Fritzshall. “And if we just look at each other as individuals – regardless of color, race or religion, it would be a much better world.”
In July of 2019, Cardinal Cupich joined Fritzshall, a Holocaust survivor, when she returned to the Auschwitz concentration camp, where she had been held as a teenager.
“I never thought I would go back, I never wanted to go back,” said Fritzshall. “I decided to go back because there is a lot of anti-Semitism and a lot of misbelief over what happened during the Holocaust. My job has always been to educate people about what happened and teach young people about tolerance.”
Cardinal Cupich felt it was important to join the trip to help underline the importance of empathy and understanding among all people.
“When learning the story of the Holocaust, it was really clear to me that this didn’t happen overnight,” says Cupich. “People started using language that demeaned others, and it got to the point where their lives were deemed less valuable than others due to their ethnic and religious background.”
Since their trip to Auschwitz, the two have visited with groups of young people to have powerful discussions about the power of words.
“We have to educate people on how demeaning it is to all of us to have one group dehumanized because we are all dehumanized when that happens,” said Cupich. “It’s up to all of us. All of us can stop hatred in its tracks and work to spread tolerance and understanding.”
To learn more and visit the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center, visit www.ilholocaustmuseum.org.
To learn more about the Archdiocese of Chicago, visit https://www.archchicago.org/.
And to find out more ways that you can create the good in your own community, visit www.createthegood.org.