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

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  • 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 13

  • 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 13

  • 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 13

  • 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 13

  • 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 13

  • A Letter to Olivia

    Dear Olivia, 

    Last month I met your dad at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA. He was in the audience when I gave a talk about my family’s experience during the Holocaust. It was the first time he heard an account by an actual survivor of that terrible chapter in the world’s history. Afterwards he came up to me with tears in his eyes and said, “I am a young father and have a one-year-old daughter. Who will tell her your story when she grows up?” He then asked whether I would write a letter to you that you could read when you are old enough to understand the history and the lessons of the Holocaust that I shared that evening.

    Tags:   echoes of memory, volume 12alfred münzer

  • Guests

    There is an ancient Jewish belief that there are seven imaginary, mystical guests, called Ushpizin in Aramaic, who visit families on Sukkot, the Festival of Tabernacles that commemorates the protection afforded by the Eternal as the Israelites wandered the desert. The guests, one for each day of the holiday, are said to be the biblical figures Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph, and David. Each is invited in turn, with a prayer formulated by 16th-century Kabbalists, to join the family in the sukkah, the temporary shelter built of natural materials that is at the heart of the holiday. 

    Tags:   echoes of memory, volume 11alfred münzer

  • A Life in a Box

    My family, what some might call my biological family, lived in a box: a box roughly the size of a shoebox but much more elegant, a powder-blue flip-top box adorned with pink lilacs that had been used to display high-end perfumed soap bars—Boldoot or Castella—in Mom’s cosmetics store. The box was filled with photographs that introduced me to a world inhabited, in addition to my mom whom I had gotten to know in the flesh, by a dad, sisters, grandparents, and aunts and uncles whom I would otherwise never have met. I don’t remember when Mom first introduced me to the family in the box. It certainly wasn’t immediately after we had been reunited. I wasn’t quite four and my mom’s sudden addition to the family I already had—Papa, Mima, Willie, Dewie, and Robby—was more than enough for me to deal with. But I did come to understand soon after, that I had two sisters, portrayed in large, colorized photographs that were displayed wherever Mom and I came to live in those early years after we were reunited. My older sister, Eva, wore a blue dress and held her favorite doll, and my younger sister, Leah, wore a cream-colored dress. Eva had a broad smile, and Leah was more serious, apprehensive even. I must admit that I was somewhat envious of the attention my mother and others paid to my sisters. 

    Tags:   echoes of memory, volume 11alfred münzer

  • Brothers

    Three years ago, I had a life-changing experience: I met a brother I never knew I had. His name is Arn Chorn Pond.

    Tags:   alfred münzerechoes of memory, volume 10

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