By Kim Glovas

CHELTENHAM, Pa. (CBS) — The government shutdown forced one high school in Lancaster, Pa. to scramble at the last minute for a field trip.

The original plan had been to visit the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, but the group of seniors from  Lancaster Catholic High School ended up visiting the Keneseth Israel synagogue in Cheltenham and listening to the stories of a Holocaust survivor and one of his liberators.

Concentration camp survivor Ernie Gross (center of photo) described his experiences during the war, including lying about his age so he could be taken from his family and sent with a group of men.  He was only 15 and feels he would have been killed otherwise.

Student John Lobeck says Gross’ stories  were eye-opening.

“The vivid memories he had from it, and how he could remember the smells and the thoughts he had, the exact thoughts from the concentration camp,” Lobeck said, trailing off. “He had to survive for himself.  I always thought if your family was there, that you would go with your family.  I was astounded by that.”

Gross  and  former US soldier and concentration camp liberator Don Greenbaum (standing, second from right) urged the students to go back and tell everyone they knew about the the Holocaust because, they said, this generation will be the last to know the stories of survivors firsthand.