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BOISE -- More than 300 middle schoolers at Les Bois Junior High got a chance to learn a history lesson you just can't get out of a book Wednesday.

They gathered in the school's gym as Holocaust survivor Peter Metzelaar told the story of his life.

Metzelaar is fortunate to be alive.

Hiding from German soldiers for more than four years during World War II, he escaped death and torture in the Nazi concentration camps.

He now shares his story of survival with students across the country.

I feel fortunate to be alive, and feel very sad, Metzelaar told KTVB when asked how he felt about the experience.

Angela Harvey is an 8th grade English teacher who studies and teaches Holocaust literature. She reached out to this survivor and helped bring him to Boise.

When the students actually hear a Holocaust survivor's testimony, it becomes part of them, Harvey said. It's different from seeing it in a book or a movie. They actually can carry that story on long after the Holocaust survivors are gone.

Students like Katherine Kerkman sat in silence for nearly two hours as Metzelaar spoke.

I thought It was really interesting, Kerman said, adding that she learned more through actually meeting the man than simply researching the topic online.

Metzelaar's story is one of intense stress and good fortune.

He told students what it was like to be denied basic human rights, and how the world looked through the eyes of a second-class citizen.

Students heard how Metzelaar escaped from a Nazi soldier who held a gun to his head and gave the young boy 10 seconds to run away.

They learned how his father died in a concentration camp.

The 78-year-old detailed how he then went into hiding on a farm in Holland with his mother. He said the pair would cower under floorboards of the home when soldiers came to visit.

They later dug a cave in the nearby woods.

However, perhaps the most important lesson taught by this 78-year-old survivor was the importance of fighting against hatred and cruelty. Metzelaar encouraged the students to take a stand against both, and received a round of applause.

The bullying, the lack of understanding of somebody that's different, the tolerance, and if just a few people can recognize it, maybe they can go out and make a better world than we have so far, he said.

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