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Senator befriends Holocaust survivor

The friendship between Oregon Sen. Rob Wagner and Holocaust survivor Alter Wiener has prompted legislation to encourage Holocaust education in Oregon schools.

WWW.ALTERWIENER.COM - Alter Wiener, Holocaust survivor and authorOregon Sen. Rob Wagner, D-Lake Oswego, met Holocaust survivor Alter Wiener via an introduction from a student in the Lake Oswego School District, where Wagner serves as a school board member.

Now, Wagner and Wiener, 92, connect at least weekly.

Wiener, who is a vegetarian, serves Wagner fruit smoothies at his home in Hillsboro. Wagner read Wiener's book, "From a Name to a Number: A Holocaust Survivor's Autobiography."

After reading Wiener's story, Wagner said he decided to plan to propose a bill in 2019 to encourage schools to include the Holocaust in curriculum.

"With the rise of racism and anti-Semitism in the United States, Alter has reminded me of the importance of education as a bedrock value," Wagner wrote in his Sept. 6 newsletter to constituents. "He also reminds me that we are losing the stories of our survivors. Many of the Millennial Generation, as well as younger learners, are not aware of The Holocaust. Partnering with Alter, our legislation would encourage schools to incorporate Holocaust education when teaching the history of the 20th Century."

Wagner has asked Wiener to speak to the Senate Education Committee Sept. 25 to share his story and to inspire lawmakers to advance the bill.

At the age of 15, Wiener was deported to Blechhammer forced labor camp in Germany and eventually lived in five camps. When liberated by the Russian Army in May 1945, he weighed 80 pounds. He is one of the last Holocaust survivors living in the Portland area, according to Amazon.com, where his book has received five stars from nearly 1,000 reviewers.

He moved to Oregon in 2000 and since then has shared his story with more than 700 audiences at schools, colleges, universities, houses of worship, prisons, clubs and other community organizations.