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Holocaust Remembrance Day is May 2nd; Survivor and Animal Rights Activist Dr. Alex Hershaft Sees Troubling Parallels

Dr. Alex Hershaft


After all these years, I still just can’t bear the thought of taking a beautiful, living, breathing being and hitting him over the head, cutting his body into pieces and then shoving them in my face.”
— Dr. Alex Hershaft
WASHINGTON DC , UNITED STATES, April 3, 2019 / -- As a young child held in captivity by the Nazis in Poland’s Warsaw Ghetto, Alex Hershaft witnessed first-hand dozens of brutal beatings, senseless shootings and people dropping dead of typhus and hunger in the streets. After years in hiding to avoid being shipped to the Nazi death camps, young Alex was finally smuggled out of the ghetto and survived the Holocaust…but most of his family did not. He learned years later that his father died following internment in a German slave labor camp. “My experience was very similar to ‘The Pianist’ (the book and Academy Award-winning film about a musician and fellow Holocaust survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto) except that I was younger, and couldn’t play the piano. But it was every bit as awful.”

His life forever shaped by what he experienced as a child, Dr. Hershaft is now one of the godfathers of the worldwide animal rights movement, a co-founder of Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM) and the website He sees huge parallels in the Holocaust and animal rights, although he says “animals don’t really have rights…just like we didn’t have rights during the Holocaust. For millions of animals, especially those raised in these huge, cruel industrial farms and slaughterhouses, every day for them is like being in a death camp.”

After a work assignment to a Midwest slaughterhouse in the early 1970s, he immediately saw parallels between the death camp extermination and animal slaughter, including “mass roundups, skin branding, transport by cattle cars, crowding in wood stalls, brutality and the dispassionate application of mass extermination.”

Hershaft knows that making the controversial comparison may rub people the wrong way.

“Let’s be clear; I am not equating the Holocaust and human life with the millions of animals slaughtered every week for U.S. dinner tables. But I am saying that all sentient beings, animals and people, share a love of life and the ability to experience emotions, including affection, joy, sadness, and fear. And far too often, these animals, with faces, families, and feelings, are treated just as badly as Holocaust victims.”

“Not long ago, I participated in a protest to block trucks jammed full of pigs from entering a slaughterhouse in Smithfield, Virginia. During a 24-hour period, over 6,000 pigs would be stunned by electrical shock, hoisted up by their hind legs and have their throats slit open. You could literally hear the pigs crying in the trucks on their way to slaughter. This was just one event, in one day, but things like this and much worse happen every day all over the world. The similarities to what I saw as a child of the Holocaust are stark. As a survivor, I am honor-bound to call public attention to this ongoing tragedy.”

For Alex, his life’s work is incredibly personal. “After all these years, I still just can’t bear the thought of taking a beautiful, living, breathing being and hitting him over the head, cutting his body into pieces and then shoving them in my face.”

On April 19th, 1943, the Warsaw Ghetto staged a desperate uprising that lasted several weeks. That date is observed throughout the world as Holocaust Remembrance Day. This year, it falls on May 2nd according to the Jewish calendar.

Burke Allen
Allen Media Strategies
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