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Storyteller Corinne Stavish discusses what happens “When Good People Do Something”

By Staff | Aug 24, 2018

Speak Story Series storyteller Corinne Stavish, center, speaks about the Holocaust with Agnes Freund, left, of Shepherdstown, and Gary Auerbach, right, of Winchester, following the program on Aug. 15. Photo by Tabitha Johnston.

SHEPHERDSTOWN — Storyteller and Lawrence Technological University Professor Corinne Stavish personally knows what the devastating result of the Holocaust looked like. Of her four Jewish grandparents’ family members who had not immigrated to the United States before the rise of the Third Reich, not one survived the Holocaust.

However, Stavish said rather than focusing on the horror of the Holocaust, she prefers to tell the stories of people who risked their lives to do good, helping those who were in danger of being sent to prison camps and/or killed by the Nazi regime.

“Too frequently we tell the story of the Holocaust. I came to tell the story of hope. My feeling is that horror offers an opportunity for humanity,” Stavish said, during the Speak Story Series on Aug. 14.

“I want to tell about the people who chose to do good in the world. I choose to tell this story, to show the best of what people can be,” Stavish said, mentioning she is personally challenged and encouraged to be a better person whenever she tells the story of “When Good People Do Something.”

According to Stavish, she originally came across the story by chance, after traveling to Denmark with the goal of seeing its famous statue depicting Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid beside Copenhagen’s harbor. Ironically, she never ended up seeing the statue during her trip.

While in Denmark, Stavish visited the now-closed Friheds Museum and learned about how the majority of Denmark’s Jews escaped being captured by the Nazis. Although Sweden’s king had originally aligned the country with Nazi Germany, Danish physicist Neils Bohr persuaded him to allow Denmark’s Jews to find refuge in his country. As Nazi forces took over Denmark in 1943, about 7,200 Danish Jews were safely ferried over to Sweden by Danish fishermen over a three-week period, saving 95 percent of the country’s Jews.

According to Stavish, this story stands out from the other stories she has told in the past, because of its ability to change listeners’ perspectives.

“I tell this story because I love history and I want to honor these people. But I also want to learn from it, to become a better human being — I feel like every time I tell this story, I become a better person,” Stavish said. “If someone else decides to become a better person because of it, that’s because of the story, not because of me.”