Read reflections and testimonies written by Holocaust survivors in their own words.

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  • The Most Difficult Decision of My Life

    The Holocaust deprived me of a father, sisters, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. I was fortunate, however, to be reunited with my mother when I was three and a half. She was one of 110,000 Jews deported from the Netherlands, and one of only 5,000 who returned. It was not until I was five or six that I became fully aware of the many missing members of my family. I boasted that I would make up for the loss and have 12 kids of my own, and I conjured up a whole loud brood around the dinner table. But that was before I learned the facts of life and that it takes more than the wish of one person to make a family. Slowly, throughout my childhood and teens, I came to understand that I was different and that marriage and having a family of my own wasn’t likely to be. 

    Tags:   alfred münzerechoes of memory, volume 14life after the holocaustfamilydeportations

  • Reinkensstraat 67

    Reinkenstraat 67 is the address in Den Haag of an ordinary two-story home next to a fish market. It is an ordinary house on an ordinary street lined with ordinary small businesses and cafés. The address is less than a mile from the house where I was born and that my family called home until October 1942 when our family was torn apart, and we were forced to go into hiding. Reinkenstraat 67 is an address that Hannah Arendt might have called “banal,” an ordinary address where evil and mass murder assumed a personal dimension. A house I needed to see with my own two eyes, not to achieve closure, but to feel and bear witness to the depths to which the human soul can descend.

    Tags:   alfred münzerechoes of memory, volume 14denunciationauschwitzbergen-belsenmemorialspolicehidden childrenamsterdam

  • Putting a Name to a Hidden Face

    Two of the most precious photographs I have of my family were taken at my brit milah, the ritual circumcision ceremony performed on all male Jewish babies when they are eight days old. Because I was born a year and a half into the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, my parents’ friends counseled against a circumcision. “It will identify him as being Jewish,” they said. My parents’ dilemma was solved when a pediatrician who examined me shortly after I was born told my father that I needed “a minor operation, called a circumcision.” My father then reminded him of our Jewish tradition and that I would be ritually circumcised. That is how family and friends came to gather in our home on December 1, 1941, to observe this first milestone of a Jewish life.

    Tags:   alfred münzerechoes of memory, volume 14hidden childrendeportationsforced laborswedenmemory

  • Aix-les-Bains

    Aix-les-Bains is an idyllic thermal bath resort located in a basin formed by the French Alps to one side and the Jura mountains to the other, and is a place frequented by such luminaries as Queen Victoria and the Aga Khan. But to me Aix stands for a way of living that has guided me since I was 15. 

    Tags:   alfred münzerechoes of memory, volume 14life after the holocaustreligionmemoryfriendsschools

  • They Called Me by My Name!

    Before my mother and I immigrated to the United States, she had told me precious little about the town in Poland where she was born. Even the name of the town was somewhat of a mystery. 

    Tags:   alfred münzerechoes of memory, volume 14familymemorylife after the holocaustimmigation

  • Time Moving in Reverse

    The Holocaust should be receding into history, the purview of scholars, books, museums, and memorials. After all, the Nazi regime that gave rise to the Holocaust gained power 87 years ago and was defeated 75 years ago. But for me, in these last few weeks, time seems to have been moving in reverse. The resurgence of antisemitism and xenophobia in the United States and Europe may have played a part, but the sudden, unexpected discovery of new information about the fate of my sisters has hurled me back to a time when I was less than a year old, a time when I was too young to comprehend the breakup forced on our family by the Nazi occupation. It is as if the immunity conferred by the slow piecemeal exposure to the Holocaust as a youngster growing up in its immediate aftermath had worn off, and I now fully felt the pain of the loss of my sisters and the anger at the perpetrators and collaborators responsible for the murder of two bright and beautiful young girls, only five and seven, in a man-made hell called Auschwitz.  

    Tags:   alfred münzerechoes of memory, volume 13auschwitzcollaborationdenunciation

  • America under Attack

    About 60 years ago my mother and I arrived in the United States. As we ate breakfast on the SS Rijndam, tears welled up as we had our first long-anticipated view of the Statue of Liberty. To us, America was “The New World,” a country where everyone had the opportunity to thrive, a country that welcomed the stranger, a country with none of the narrow-mindedness and antisemitism that persisted in Europe even after the Holocaust. As we stood at the railing waiting for our turn with the immigration officer, we marveled at the heavy protective gloves worn by dockworkers as they unloaded huge crates, and at the cups of coffee they were served on the loading platforms when it came time for a break. Surely this was the real workers’ paradise!

    Tags:   alfred münzerechoes of memory, volume 13immigrationpropagandacontemporary events

  • Yahrzeit

    Yahrzeit is the Jewish yearly observance of a loved one’s death. Traditionally, we light a candle at home and recite the kaddish in the synagogue in their memory. I learned the words of the kaddish sometime in 1950 when I was eight or nine, shortly after my mother found out the precise date of my father’s death—July 25, 1945, which translated to the Hebrew date 15 Av—in what had been the Ebensee concentration camp. I have observed the ritual ever since. The kaddish makes no reference to mourning but is a reaffirmation of our faith in the Almighty despite our loss.

    Tags:   alfred münzerechoes of memory, volume 13childrenebenseememory

  • Uncle Emil

    My parents came from large families. I do not know the exact number of their siblings, but each had at least six. There was only one known survivor of the Holocaust among my mother’s brothers and sisters—her oldest brother, my uncle Adolf or Abraham. He managed to leave Germany and get to Bolivia with his wife, my aunt Helen, and their son, Norbert, my only cousin who survived the Holocaust, who sadly is now deceased. And I do not know of any survivors among my father’s brothers and sisters.

    Tags:   alfred münzerechoes of memory, volume 13auschwitzdeportationresistanceselection

  • Arthur and Helga

    All I know about my early life comes from photographs and the stories my mother told me. Yesterday, I received a photograph I had never seen before. It opened a whole new chapter, and it left me stunned and speechless. It is the earliest picture I have of me together with my mother. The photo was one of many I received in an email from an unremembered friend, Arthur Friederizi.

    Tags:   alfred münzerechoes of memory, volume 13hidingrescuersmemory

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