This morning BBC tweeted "Is the time coming to lay the Holocaust to rest?" In response to this question, I hope this website serves as a simple answer, NO. Below is the link to the full text and copied below are some of the responses to this question.
MERCER ISLAND, Wash. -- Growing up a Jew in Poland, Henry Friedman never got a chance to finish high school.
"I was deprived of that," said the 86-year-old, who now lives on Mercer Island.
Friedman was 14 when Nazis took over his hometown. Christian farmers hid him, his mother, younger brother, and a Jewish school teacher in a loft for 18 months. His father hid with another family nearby.
"We were up in an attic, above animals. Our space was the size of a queen bed," Friedman said.
Friedman vividly recalled how there wasn't enough room for him to stand up.
"When I was liberated I could not walk because my muscles were all atrophied," he said.
Of the 10,000 jews living in Friedman's town during the Holocaust, he said less than 100 survived. His was the only family. But not all of his family escaped the nightmare.
Friedman's voice softened and his eyes welled as he spoke of a sister born in the loft. He said they all feared a crying newborn would expose and endanger them. He and his brother looked away during the birth and said the teacher then suffocated his sister.
Friedman said he must now go to his grave with that guilt.
"We were infested with lice and fleas, we were starving, but I didn't want to die, I did not want to die, I want to live, I want to survive," he said.
At age 22, Friedman moved to Seattle. He didn't speak English. He didn't know a soul. After a series of jobs and just 10 months, he was drafted into the US Army, where he became a colonel.
Over the years, Friedman moved to Mercer Island. He pushed for a Holocaust museum. He earned an audience with a pope and a president. He raised three children. At every graduation he attended for his kids and grandkids, he beamed with pride but also felt pain.
"I felt a little emptiness, something missing," he said.
On Wednesday the void will finally be filled. The Kent School District, where Friedman has volunteered for 20 years, is giving the 86-year old an honorary high school diploma.
"To most people it's just a piece of paper, but to me it's like getting a medal of honor," Friedman said.
Friedman missed three years of high school classes during the war. The teacher who hid with his family kept him from falling too far behind. Friedman has since devoted his life to sharing lessons he learned from his past.
"My message is not just blood and gore. My message is don't hate. Hate may destroy you. Others may hate you but they do not win until you hate them back," he said.
Friedman says his enemy is no longer Hitler, it's time. And as it closes in on him, he forges ahead -- promoting hope over hate.
"Never give up, never give up hope," said the man who had almost given up on getting his high school diploma.
The original article for the article written by Elisa Jaffe published on October 7, 2014 copied above can be found online at Komo News. http://www.komonews.com/news/local/Holocaust-Survivor-Receives-High-School-Diploma-278457961.html
A teenager who formed a close bond with Holocaust survivors during a volunteering stint drew powerful portraits of the people he said “changed his life forever”.
Gideon Summerfield, who lives in Finchley, began helping out at Jewish Care’s Holocaust Survivors Centre in Parson Street, Hendon last year.
After spending time at the centre, he realised each survivor had a powerful and important story to tell and met them in their homes to draw them using nothing but a biro.
He said: “I had an enormous amount of time off last summer, and after realising the survivors are in their twilight years I decided I wanted to start volunteering with them.
“I was 18 and I thought I’d understand it, I thought I was ready to hear what they had to say. I didn’t think I’d let it get to me emotionally. But during our talks, we both ended up in tears and I’m not ashamed to admit that.
“I finally felt comfortable enough to ask them if they wanted to be drawn. During each portrait, they held something precious to them to reflect their time in the Holocaust, or after.”
Many survivors held the only photographs they have of family members who died during the Holocaust or displayed the tattoos they were marked with at concentration camps.
Gideon, a second year illustration student at Cardiff University, presented them with their finished portraits last week.
He chose to use a biro instead of a paintbrush or a pencil as he found it easier to draw with.
He added: “The teenage years I had contrast with the teenage years they had. It is a moment in history we should all remember and not take our lives for granted.
“Meeting them has changed my life forever.”
The original article for the article written by Anna Slater published on August 11, 2014 copied above can be found online at The Times Series.
The Holocaust Survivor Klezmer Band's first concert on July 27 was a spirited performance that had members of the audience dancing and the musicians jamming as they followed the lead of band co-founder Ruby Sosnowicz.
"We were winging it. He just kept playing and everybody just played along," said singer Chana Sosnowicz, Ruby Sosnowicz daughter. "We went over the two hours. People wouldn't leave. We thought we would run out [of songs]."
Songs included "Sheyn Vi Di Levone," "Erev Shel Shoshanim," "Zog Nit Keyn Mol" ("Partisan Song"), "Hava Nagila" and "Jerusalem of Gold." The band also performed songs from "Fiddler on the Roof" and a medley of Russian songs.
Richard Rosenzweig, a Deerfield Beach commissioner and "big supporter" of the band, said, "They were good. They were very professional."
Forming a Holocaust survivor band was "a phenomenal idea by Saul Dreier," Rosenzweig said. Dreier, like Ruby Sosnowicz, is a Holocaust survivor from Poland. "To come back and play the music and the tenor of the times," Rosenzweig said. "We should keep our music for ourselves and bring it forward."
A week after the concert, Dreier said, "I'm crazy. I don't believe it," when asked about the audience of more than 400 people at Temple Haim in Margate.
"It was phenomenal. The music was just tremendous. The performers were excellent," Arline Pacifici, 80, of Coconut Creek said.
"I liked the music, the style they played," said Ted Schenk, 82, of Coconut Creek. "The fact that they were old and they were still energetic. They put on a great performance."
Henry Reich, 89, of Deerfield Beach, a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and seven concentration camps, said, "It was a delight. It was very lively and entertaining."
The Holocaust Survivor Klezmer Band will perform its next concert at 3 p.m. Oct. 19 at Temple Haim, 6101 NW 31st St., Margate. The concert is free, however donations will be accepted. For more information, call Saul Dreier at 954-868-4742.
The original article for the article written by David A. Schwartz published on August 11, 2014 copied above can be found online at Sun Sentenial http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2014-08-11/florida-jewish-journal/fl-jjbs-klezmer-0814-20140811_1_ruby-sosnowicz-first-concert-saul-dreier
27 January 2010 – Top UN officials have stressed the importance of sharing the stories of the men, women and children who survived Nazi death camps as a way to encourage respect for diversity and human rights.
“Holocaust survivors will not be with us forever – but the legacy of their survival must live on,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a message to mark the International Day in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust.
“All of them carry a crucial message for all of us,” he stated. “A message about the triumph of the human spirit. A living testament that tyranny, though it may rise, will surely not prevail.
“We must preserve their stories – through memorials… through education… most of all through robust efforts to prevent genocide and other grave crimes,” said the Secretary-General, pledging the full commitment of the UN to this cause.
In her statement to mark the Day, the UN human rights chief noted that it is now more than 60 years since the systematic murder of one third of the Jewish people, as well as thousands of other victims, including Roma, Slavs, disabled people, homosexuals, Jehovah’s witnesses, communists and political dissidents.
“But the grotesque nature and scale of the Holocaust is in no way diminished by the passing of time,” stated High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.
She added that a continued focus on the Holocaust helps people to remain alert to the dangers presented by contemporary outbreaks of anti-Semitism and various forms of vilification and discrimination targeting other specific racial, ethnic or social groups.
“Remembering the Holocaust, and how it came about, can – and should – help us to intervene much earlier in the escalating pattern of prejudice that can lead eventually to genocide. It is also an essential response to those who claim that the Holocaust never happened,” Ms. Pillay said.
In 2005, the General Assembly designated 27 January, the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp, as the International Day. This year’s observance includes a memorial ceremony and concert, as well as the opening of two exhibitions at UN Headquarters in New York, one titled “Generations: Survival and the Legacy of Hope” and the other titled “Architecture of Murder: The Auschwitz-Birkenau Blueprints.”
Speaking at the opening of the exhibit last night, Mr. Ban remarked that the blueprints for Auschwitz-Birkenau show just how many people it took to build “this enterprise of death,” from the Nazi leaders who commissioned the extermination camps and the architects and engineers who designed the gas chambers and crematoria, to the drivers who delivered the wood, the workers who hammered the nails and laid the bricks, and those who turned on the poison gas.
“This exhibition delivers a vital message that bears repeating again and again: the Holocaust did not just happen; it was planned,” said Mr. Ban. “The abominable crimes committed against so many millions of Jews and others were not just incidental casualties of war; they were its very intent.”
Events are also being held around the world to mark the Day, including a screening of the film As Seen Through Their Eyes by a number of UN information centres.
The original article for the article published on January 27, 2010 copied above can be found online at UN News Centre.
On the Lookout: The paintings by 98-year-old Irving Kamrat depicts scenes from his youth in Poland and the Bergen Belsen concentration camp.
There’s a painting of Hitler with an almost Picasso-esquely skewed face, and a blue coat. There’s a painting of a boy in a brown suit peering at a swastika painted on a wall. And then there are paintings of houses, people taking walks, forests and trees, lots of trees. In other words, the paintings of Irving Kamrat, 98, depict scenes of his youth. The Polish native grew up in a shtetl, and was deported to the Bergen Belsen concentration camp after the Nazis invaded Poland. The survivor now lives in Long Island, New York. He has commemorated much of what he went through in his folk art style paintings. “He talked about [the Holocaust] but really painted much more about it,” says Nasya Kamrat, his 34-year-old granddaughter.
Kamrat, who runs an animation film company called FacultyNY in Brooklyn, has started an ambitious project: bringing survivors’ stories to life using animation based on her grandfather’s art, and featuring interviews as background narration. Together with her team, she is currently fundraising to produce “Unspeakable: An Animated Holocaust Documentary”, a short film that is scheduled to come out in November.
The film will center around the stories of her grandfather, and another woman, Yvonne Engelman, who was deported from Czechoslovakia to Auschwitz at the age of 16 in 1944, and taken to the gas chambers. Just as they were entering the fake showers, they were thrown out again by the Nazi camp guards.
In the beginning, Nasya Kamrat recounts, her goal was to memorialize her grandfather’s story. Irving Kamrat’s life was saved by a German guard: Towards the end of the war, the Nazis were killing people by playing a “game” in which Jews had to count off, and were killed if they got the “wrong” number. One day, Irving was picked and taken to a room where he was supposed to be killed by hanging. The German guard, who he had gotten to know well, hid him in a bin filled with laundry from previously killed inmates, and snuck him out of the room. The camp was liberated shortly thereafter.
When Kamrat shared her idea with friends, many told her other survivors’ stories. “I realized it was so much bigger than just my own family story,” she said.
She also realized that animation could prove to be an effective tool, as it allows reenacting the stories, and thus bringing them back to life, while presenting a fresh perspective on Holocaust education: “I remember always having the images of the footage we’ve all seen,” said Kamrat, referring to black-and-white photos and videos that are usually shown in schools and museums. “It’s really powerful but after a while you’re almost immune to it.”
The success of the recent animated documentaries “Waltz with Bashir” and “Persepolis” inspired Kamrat and her business partner Joshua Balgos, who usually produce animated advertising videos for their company, to attempt to venture into the feature film genre. The completed short film will go through the festival circuit next year and help raising funds for a full-length feature film.
With the number of survivors dwindling, Kamrat sees her work as important: “For me, it’s paying it forward to future generations.”
The original article for the article written by Anna Goldenberg published on July 11, 2014 copied above can be found online at The Jewish Daily Forward. http://forward.com/articles/201889/holocaust-survivors-stories-as-cartoons/#ixzz37BAlPpF9
Sir Nicholas Winton is a humanitarian who organized a rescue operation that saved the lives of 669 Jewish Czechoslovakia children from Nazi death camps, and brought them to the safety of Great Britain between the years 1938-1939.
After the war, his efforts remained unknown. But in 1988, Winton’s wife Grete found the scrapbook from 1939 with the complete list of children’s names and photos. This is a clip of a video where Sir Nicholas Winton is sitting in an audience of Jewish Czechoslovakian people who he saved 50 years before.
The original webpage to this video can be found on Buzzfeed http://www.lifebuzz.com/old-scrapbook/#!9JzdQ
Hedy Bohm’s teen life came to a standstill during the Second World War.
And as she told the Grade 12 students from Toronto’s Birchmount Park Collegiate about her experiences — first, having to sew the Star of David on her dresses, then being sent to a concentration camp and, later, a forced-labour camp — they began thinking about all that she’d been through, and what she’d missed out on. The kinds of things they take for granted.
Moved by Bohm’s story, the next day 18-year-old Rowan Kelly suggested an idea to his classmates: Could she attend their prom? “I thought it was such a great idea, and a great way to make relationships with the community,” said Tania Camuti, who teaches a course on challenge and change in society, which covers hate crime and genocide.
“It showed a real sense of empathy and compassion in a generation that’s sometimes stigmatized for not having any empathy and compassion.”
Camuti ran with the idea and sought the approval of the vice-principal and prom committee. She even acted as chauffeur Monday night, taking Bohm to the Liberty Grand where the Holocaust survivor was honoured with a handmade memory book.
“Her childhood was just taken away from her,” said Kelly on why he made the suggestion and planned to dance with her.
Bohm, now 86, was born in Romania and in 1944 she and her parents were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where they were separated. She never saw them again.
Bohm was later sent to a German labour camp, where she worked in an old car plant, making landmines and V2 rockets. When the war ended, she lived in Romania with an aunt who’d only survived because she’d married someone who was not Jewish and had converted.
A few years later, Bohm married and moved to Canada.
Camuti has taken three classes of students to Toronto’s Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre as part of a lesson on discrimination and was so impressed by Bohm that after their first meeting she’s requested her again and again.
After Kelly’s suggestion, the next class to visit in May brought Bohm the invitation, along with a bouquet of flowers. Bohm didn’t hesitate in her answer.
“The fact that Hedy had to leave her friends so abruptly — some she never saw again — it puts into perspective how lucky we are and the fact that we get to say goodbye to our friends before we part ways, and hopefully we will still see them down the road,” said Grade 12 student Brigitte Donaghy, who was on that class trip and also happened to be a member of the prom committee.
For Bohm, it’s her second prom after being invited by a group of students back in 2011. She only began speaking about her experiences eight years ago, because before that she couldn’t do so without breaking down.
“I make sure I convey a message to them beyond my story — about being strong enough to stand up if they see prejudice or anti-Semitism or when they see injustice, Holocaust denial,” said Bohm. “That they should not be bystanders . . . They have to live up to be the best in themselves.”
The original article for the article by Kristen Rushowy on June 24, 2014 copied above can be found online at The Star.com
Seventy-six years ago, Manfred Lindenbaum and his family became refugees, forced by the Nazis to leave their home in Germany, and flee over the border into neighboring Poland. He was just six years old.
Last week, Jackson resident Lindenbaum, now 81, returned to Poland to retrace his family's refugee odyssey. This time, he brought wife, Annabel, his three children, and seven of his nine grandchildren — ages 12 to 24 — back with him. He also brought something else: strong memories of his 14-year-old sister, Ruth, who died at Auschwitz. His parents, Otto and Frieda, also perished there.
"I always have her with me," Lindenbaum said of his sister, who was left behind when he and his brother Siegfried boarded a boat for England shortly before war broke out in September 1939. "I always have the need to make a difference. I do it for her."
Lindenbaum's decision to relive his family's flight from Germany to Poland has another goal as well. In partnership with HIAS, a global Jewish organization that helps refugees throughout the world, he hopes to raise money to help refugee children living at displaced persons' camps in Chad.
The children have fled genocide in the Darfur area of the Sudan, and HIAS is providing trauma counseling and social services at five different camps there.
"It really resonates with me," Lindenbaum said in a telephone interview conducted while he and his family were in Budapest, where he was speaking at a conference for Jewish youth. "I was a refugee kid. I got help, and I survived because of that help."
Starting in Warsaw June 16, Lindenbaum and his family and friends are completing the journey his family took in 1938 and 1939, although this time in reverse. They visited Warsaw, standing in front of a fragment of the wall of the ghetto where the Nazis forced the Jews to live. They walked through the ruins of Treblinka death camp. They traveled to Otwock, where Lindenbaum, his sister, Ruth, and his brother, Siegfried, lived for about a month before they Manfred and Siegfried left for England on a boat as part of the Kindertransport, an effort by the British government and relief organizations that rescued about 10,000 predominantly Jewish children from Europe in the nine months before World War II.
Retracing His Family's Flight to Raise Awareness
As part of what the Lindenbaums call "Manfred's Odyssey," the family crossed the Polish-German border on June 20, World Refugee Day. This week they will return to Unna, the German town where Manfred and his family lived before the Nazis forced them out. The last 200 miles of their journey will be by bicycle. It will mark Lindenbaum's fifth trip back to his hometown. During his last visit, in May 2011, he was struck by the warmth of the people and the genuine feeling of caring and concern that the events of the past not be forgotten.
"I want to return to my home," Lindenbaum said. "I don't want to go there and mourn. I want to celebrate the lives they lived before they were murdered, before they were hounded. It will put my mind at ease, at rest."
HIAS President and CEO Mark Hetfield said he hopes Lindenbaum's odyssey will highlight the plight of the hundreds of thousands of refugees his organization is assisting worldwide. Founded in New York City in 1881 to assist Jews who were fleeing pogroms in Eastern Europe and Russia, the organization became known by the acronym that was its first cable address.
"Nothing makes us happier at HIAS than when a refugee turns around and wants to give back," Hetfield said. "In Manny's case, he's really giving of himself, and doing it in a way that really draws attention.…He really is amazing."
But to Lindenbaum, his journey, what he calls his odyssey, is also a way to celebrate his family's memory while also seeking peace for himself. He remembers his early childhood in Unna, a small town located in northwest Germany, as pleasant and peaceful. His older sister, Ruth, "was probably one of the most popular girls in Unna."
His father, Otto, owned a small clothing store and the family lived above it. They were not wealthy, but "they did very nicely," Lindenbaum said. But things began to change as the Nazis consolidated power and issued a series of anti-Jewish laws. Lindenbaum, who was born in 1932, remembers when his father had to put a 'J' in his store window, signifying that the business was owned by Jews.
"After that, we became very, very poor," Lindenbaum said. His older brother, Siegfried, was taunted and beaten by other boys at school. After one particularly brutal beating, when Siegfried was dragged through a thorn bush, his mother, Frieda, marched down to the school, demanding that her son's tormentors be punished. "She was told that there was nothing they could do," Lindenbaum said.
One day, Lindenbaum crept out of the house and went to an anti-Jewish rally in the town square. "I wanted to see what was happening," he said. "I saw people screaming and hollering, depictions of so-called Jews with long noses and things growing out of their heads. I was scared, but I wanted to see it." Some of the Lindenbaum relatives, who had more money, were able to escape, heading for destinations like Palestine or South Africa.
But Manfred's parents did not have the money to leave, and, in the years before the war, very few countries were admitting poorer Jewish immigrants. They were trapped.
Forced to flee Germany
On Thursday, Oct. 27, 1938, the Nazis knocked on the Lindenbaums' door. "I have this memory of the clicking of boots, then this Nazi official, this policeman, I don't know what he was, coming into the store, telling me father, you have to immediately report to the police station, with a small suitcase," Lindenbaum said.
Although the Lindenbaums were German, they were of Polish descent, and the Nazis were expelling them from Germany. They spent the night at the police station in a nearby town. The next day, they boarded trains to be taken to the Polish border.
Many of the observant Jews on board had never traveled before on the Sabbath. The Nazis made sure the trains started after sundown. Lindenbaum remembers sitting on his grandfather's lap as the train full of frightened people left the station. His grandfather began singing L'chah Dodi, a Hebrew prayer that welcomes the Sabbath. Others joined in. "That memory is very vivid, more than anything else," Lindenbaum said.
The Jews arrived at a border town and exited the trains. They were marched by the Germans towards the border, but the Polish border guards denied them entry. Chaos ensued. Lindenbaum remembers Polish farmers descending on the refugees and stealing their luggage and valuables.
His family wound up across the border, in the small town of Zbaszyn. There they moved, along with hundreds of other refugees, into an abandoned flour mill. It was early November 1938. The family would live there until July 1939.
Jewish organizations from Warsaw came to the flour mill to provide food and clothing. "We didn't have much to eat, but we were OK," Lindenbaum said. It was cold and clothing was scarce, but Lindenbaum made friends. He remembers playing with other refugee kids.
In July 1939, the Lindenbaum family fled to the train station in Zbaszyn, planning to leave for Grodno, on the Russian border. German troops were massed on the Polish border and it seemed clear an invasion was coming, Lindenbaum said.
A chance to escape
Amidst the chaos at the train station, someone called out that there was still a chance for children to be taken to England on the Kindertransport.
Lindenbaum's mother moved quickly. "She took me, my brother and my sister and shoved us over to a total stranger," Lindenbaum remembered. "They got on a train to go somewhere else. They obviously made a very brave and right decision, but I didn't appreciate it."
Instead, he felt abandoned and angry. He watched as a friend from the mill, a 9-year-old boy, became hysterical when his mother tried to put him on the Kindertransport line. "His mother came, hugged and kissed him, and took him back with her," Lindenbaum said. After the war, he found out the mother and son had been killed immediately after their arrival at Auschwitz.
Lindenbaum tried to run away and hide in the station, but his sister brought him back. The three children traveled to Otwock, where they lived for about a month, waiting for the Kindertransport. But when the time finally came to leave, Ruth, who was 14, was deemed too old. She was told another boat would be coming later and she could leave then. The next boat did not come.
Ruth was eventually reunited with her parents. Lindenbaum would never see his sister or his parents again.
Lindenbaum and his brother, Siegfried boarded a boat in Danzig in late August, 1939. They arrived in London on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 1939. That Friday, Germany invaded Poland. World War II had begun.
When he first arrived in England, Lindenbaum was a "very, very angry," he said. He lashed out at the family he was living with in the town of Ely, in Cambridgeshire. He was separated from his brother, who lived with a family in Brighton and had a more positive experience. "I was always in trouble," Lindenbaum said. "I was shoved from one family to another. The last three years, I was with a Christian family, and they were very good to me."
Arriving in America
In 1946, Lindenbaum and Siegfried came to America. His mother's sister, Yettchen Bienstock, and her husband, Simon, had escaped Europe in 1941 with the help of HIAS, making their way to America. They bought a chicken farm in Toms River.
The area was dotted with poultry farms then, many owned by Jews who had fled Europe. "After being hungry, they thought, if you have a piece of land you owned, and you were raising some kind of food, you would have security again," Lindenbaum said.
His brother was very ill when he came to America and spent five months in the hospital, suffering from nephritis, an inflammation of the kidneys. HIAS paid for Siegfried's hospital costs and also helped the Bienstocks to come to America.
Lindenbaum also became a chicken farmer. A self-professed workaholic, he sold eggs, worked as a peddler, and bought houses and remodeled them. He married Annabel and had three children. His brother earned a doctorate degree and became a scientist. He died in 1994, at age 62.
Always, he carried with him the memory of his parents, and the guilt he felt about his sister. "It should have been her on that boat, and not me," he said.
He came to see his parents' decision to put him on the Kindertransport not as a betrayal, but as a heroic, selfless act.
"If I am ashamed of anything in my life, it's the anger I had for my parents," Lindenbaum said. "I closed my mind off to them, but in actuality they were doing a heroic act. I didn't understand why for a long, long time."
Lindenbaum decided to devote his life to charity work, to honor his sister's memory. He helped found the Peace, Genocide and Holocaust Center at Ocean County College and is an active board member of Brookdale Community College's Holocaust Center. He's volunteered his time speaking in prisons, as part of a program that aims to teach inmates alternatives to violent behavior. He tells his story often to children, urging them to speak up when they see someone being bullied.
"I believe that when we stand by and listen as others are put down, we start to become part of the problem," he said. "When we speak out against hatred, we become part of the solution."
He and his grandson, Jacob, are chronicling Lindenbaum's odyssey on a website,www.odyssey76.com. In Otwock, Jacob and his grandfather entered the building where the Lindenbaum children stayed before Siegfried and Manfred left for England. It was the last place Lindenbaum ever saw his sister.
Watching his grandfather last week, Jacob Lindenbaum wrote: "Ruth was murdered as a teenager and my Zayda has never let her age in his mind. As he stood on the grounds where he spent his last few weeks with Ruth, he let her grow older and let go of his guilt."
"Ruth would be 90 today. And I know she is smiling down on me and this family," Manfred Lindenbaum said.
The original article for the article written by Jean Mikle published on June 23, 2014 copied above can be found online at Asbury Park Press http://www.app.com/story/news/local/jackson-lakewood/jackson/2014/06/20/jackson-holocaust-survivor-retraces-familys-journey/11202379/
Answer by Joshua Kaplan:
I am an Orthodox Jewish guy, so as you can imagine, I have met many Holocaust survivors over the years. Until I got married, however, I did not get to actually discuss with any of them their personal Holocaust stories in a detailed way. I do have lots and lots of relatives who did experience the Holocaust, but those relatives did not survive. The first time I did actually have the opportunity to have a discussion with a survivor was when I got married.
My wife's (maternal) grandfather is an Auschwitz survivor. When we were first married, being young and insensitive, I used to bring up the topic and talk to him about his experiences, and it appeared he did not have any qualms talking about it. One day, one of my uncles approached me and explained to me that being the sweetest guy in the world, my grandfather would talk to anyone about anything, but I should be aware that on a day he talks about his experiences, he will wake up with nightmares that night.
Originally, I thought this was strange, as my mother-in-law had told us lots of stories about his time in Auschwitz, and she never mentioned that it had such an effect on him. Additionally, I had heard that in times past he had the custom to describe his whole story every year at the Passover seder. (This is actually common of survivors—describing their own personal exoduses from slavery to freedom.) So I asked my mother-in-law about this, and she explained that when he was younger, he was able to talk about it without having nightmares. Interestingly enough, the nightmares had started again at the time that Germany was reunified and the Berlin Wall came down. Seeing Germany standing tall once again was seemingly too much to bear for someone who had seen most of his family slaughtered by that very nation. Obviously, I felt horrible and stopped bringing up the topic at this point.
About 10 years after we were married, my grandfather came to visit for a weekend. The weekend that he came happened to be around the anniversary of his arriving at Auschwitz and the murder of many of his family members. (Actually it is the approximate anniversary—or yahrtzeit—as the exact date they were murdered is not certain. He commemorates the yahrtzeit on the day they arrived in Auschwitz.) We were walking home from synagogue on Saturday morning when he suddenly began saying his story. It was as if he was transported to another world. He spoke quietly—we had to lean in closely to hear him. He had a far away look in his eyes as if he was not seeing the world around him. When he took a momentary break from talking to catch his breath and someone asked him a question, he didn't hear it. It was as if he was transported back to that hellish world that was Auschwitz. That may sound melodramatic, but that is an accurate description.
This is how he explained his welcome to that hell on Earth called Auschwitz:
He was about 12 years old when the Holocaust reached his part of Europe (Slovakia). A few short months later he and his family were deported. No one on the transport (including the adults) were aware of their destination, but rather thought they were being resettled somewhere else.
Traditionally, a Jewish boy begins wearing tefillin by his bar mitzvah at 13 years of age, but even though he was a few months short of that, his father gave him a pair before they were deported. He explained that as they were relocating to an unknown place, there was no way of knowing if they would be able to get ahold of a pair there, so it would be worthwhile to take along one for his bar mitzvah. That bit of thoughtfulness unknowingly saved his life.
The traveled for a few days in a rail car designed for transporting cattle. They were crammed inside, and there was only standing room. There was very little air in the car, and the only food they had was whatever bread his mother had thought to bring along for "the trip."
They arrived at Auschwitz in the middle of the night. As soon as the door to the cattle car was opened, his senses were assaulted by the sounds of dogs (both human and canine) screaming and barking, the sight of SS officers dressed in black and prisoners that he described as appearing lifeless aside from the fact they were actually walking around, and by the a strong stench that he had never experienced before.
After tumbling out of the cattle car, they spent a few minutes trying to get their bearings. While standing there, he remembered that he had left his tefillin behind in the cattle car and went to retrieve them. While in the car, a woman came over to him and told him: "When they ask you how old you are, say 16." He had no clue what she was talking about. Who would ask? And why should he lie?
A few minutes later, at the behest of the SS officers, the large group (he said it numbered in the thousands) was separated by gender (though small children went with their mothers). Grandfather and his father and four older brothers went with the men, while his mother and four younger siblings (two boys and two girls) went with the women. He said goodbye to them thinking he would be seeing them later after settling in to their bunks.
After being whipped (literally) into a single-file line, each of the prisoners was made to stand in front of a doctor. (He says he believes it was the infamous Dr. Josef Mengele but cannot be sure.) When Grandfather's turn came, he was asked his age. Remembering the advice of the woman on the train to lie about his age, he did. But in his confused state, he answered 18 instead of 16. The doctor looked at him skeptically and said he did not believe him, so he said he meant 16. The doctor asked him for his birth year to see if he would fumble and he really could not answer the question. Luckily a man behind him whispered "1928," and he answered the doctor correctly. He was sent to the the right as were his father and two of his brothers. The remaining two of his older brothers were sent to the left. At that point he did not understand the implications of that flick of the finger but rather thought that those being sent to the right would be sent to labor of some sort, and those sent to the left, being either too young or weak to work, would be left alone. As a matter of fact, he said he was a bit annoyed at himself for obeying that strange woman's advice. Those sent to the left were marched off never to be seen again.
Two days later, he was still trying to determine the whereabouts of his six siblings and his mother who had been separated from him. While asking around, someone pointed out to him the tall chimneys spewing smoke into the sky and and asked him what he thought the smoke was. He replied that he thought it was some sort of factory that was part of the camp. "No," the man replied. "That is your mother."
And then he understood.
When he finished talking, he looked at my children and said: "At the time of my bar mitzvah, I was in Auschwitz, and did not dream I would survive. Now, look! I have more than 75 children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren!" (That was then; now he has more than 100.) "More than 10 for every one they murdered!"
The original article for the article written by Joshua Kaplan on June 19, 2014 copied above can be found online at Quora.com.