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Lasting Memory

By Erika Eckstut

I remember the time in the Czernowitz ghetto when I used to take off the star from my coat, leave my ID, and go out to look for food. I was always hungry and scared. I went to a store that sold food to the clergy, because I knew my father had a priest who was an old schoolmate. It was easy for me to go out since I was blonde, blue–eyed, and spoke German fluently.

One day I saw a German soldier beating a man on the ground who was bleeding. The soldier was on crutches and his chest was full of decorations. He stood on one of the crutches and with the other he beat the man. I approached the soldier and in my perfect German lectured him on how wrong he was to beat a man who did not defend himself. As I was busy giving my lecture, people stood around listening. All of a sudden a policeman touched my arm and said, “That will be enough little girl; let’s go home.”

At that moment I realized, “I can’t go home. If I take him to the ghetto my whole family will be killed.” So I took him to an opera singer who lived not far from the ghetto. She was, of course, a gentile. When we arrived at the door and rang the bell a beautiful lady opened the door and I said, “Mama.” The policeman at the same time said, “Is this your daughter, Madame?” She ignored him, and pointing a finger at me, she said: “I told you once, I told you twice, home and homework.” The policeman in the meantime kept repeating his question, and, in desperation, she started hitting me in the face. It was so painful that I hardly cared what happened at this point. Then, as if in a dream, I heard the policeman saying, “Keep her, keep her, just stop hitting her.” After the policeman left, she took me inside, gave me a hug, and asked, “Are you from the ghetto?”.

I have forgotten so many names from during the Holocaust, but I still remember her.

©2002, Erika Eckstut. The text, images, and audio and video clips on this website are available for limited non-commercial, educational, and personal use only, or for fair use as defined in the United States copyright laws.