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

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  • Betrayed

    It is 1948. I am seven years old. The sun is shining, violets perfume the air, tall grasses sway in the breeze, and the sun warms my face. I am holding hands with Dziadzio and Babcia. I’m skipping. I am alternately smiling and giggling when I hold up my arms and force Dziadzio and Babcia to carry me. Dziadzio is home from the hospital in the Alps. I am happy. I feel safe. Suddenly, my eyes are drawn toward a high, metal fence like the ones used in prisons but without the studded, rolled wire on top.

    Tags:   echoes of memory, volume 10julie keeferlife after the holocaustimmigrationgrandfather

  • Were They Crazy?

    “Are you crazy?” was the most frequently heard question by my parents from those who learned that my mother was pregnant with me. Under normal circumstances, no one should pose this question when a new child is about to be born. But, those were not normal circumstances, and neither was the time nor the place. The time was fall 1940; the place was Budapest, Hungary; and my parents were Jewish. In defense of those who questioned the sanity of my parents, here are some reasons why this question was not completely out of place.

    Tags:   echoes of memory, volume 10peter goroganti-jewish legislationforced laborparents

  • To Convert or Not to Convert? That Was the Question

    My mother came from a very observant Orthodox Jewish family. Her grandfather was an Orthodox rabbi in a small town in Austria-Hungary (today Prešov, Slovakia). Her father graduated from a yeshiva in Pressburg (today Bratislava, Slovakia), but he never became a rabbi. Her family kept kosher—meaning they observed the very strict Jewish dietary laws—and she had a strong Jewish education.

    Tags:   echoes of memory, volume 10peter goroganti-jewish legislationreligion

  • Thank You, Father

    How can you say “thank you” to someone who gave you the most precious thing anyone can have: your own life? And, what if you never had a chance to get to know him? This is a question I face a few times every year, when our Jewish traditions compel us to remember those loved ones who are not with us anymore.

    Tags:   echoes of memory, volume 10peter goroglife after the holocaustmemoryparents

  • Why I Feel that We Must Move On with the German People

    Like many Jewish children who were victimized during World War II, I grew up hating the entire German people for the Holocaust. How could a nation commit such crimes as killing men, women, children, and elderly people and still look at other people in the eyes without being ashamed of themselves? How could they round up millions of Jews, Roma (Gypsies), slaves, homosexuals, and handicapped children and send them to gas chambers or perform experiments on twins, among others?

    Tags:   echoes of memory, volume 10albert garihaftermath of the holocaustcomplicityvolunteering at the museum

  • Risks of Motherhood during World War II

    In 1940, or thereabouts, my mother had to go to a hospital in Paris, close to where we lived. We were told, my sister and I, that she had an appendectomy. We later learned that, in fact, she had suffered a miscarriage. Thinking of it now, if she had had that baby, we would never have been able to escape, to cross the demarcation line illegally and hide as we did. The baby might have obliged us to stay in Paris. We would have been rounded up in August 1942—that was when the Gestapo came to get us, but we had escaped on July 31, 1942. The miscarriage was sad but also a blessing in disguise. My mother didn’t talk about it until many years later.

    Tags:   echoes of memory, volume 10jacqueline mendels birnfrancelife after the holocaustoccupationfamily

  • My Father in Aurigny (Alderney)

    In September 1943, Benjamin Garih, my father, received a summons. We didn’t know where they were going to send him. But, my father has always made a point to comply with the rules, and besides, he would not want to put his family in danger. He decided to go to this ominous designated rendezvous. I was five years old, and despite the commotion around me, I didn’t realize how threatening the situation was for my father, but also for us. When the day of his leaving came, he was ready. I remember that he was given a gas mask in a cylindrical metal box. As a child, it was like a toy for me that I would play with, putting it on. When he left, he had this box strap slung around his shoulder. I don’t remember what other luggage he had. I only remember this gas mask, a frightening reminder of the first world war.

    Tags:   echoes of memory, volume 10albert garihdeportationforced laborlettersparents

  • Trip to Drohobycz

    My “pilgrimage” to Drohobycz started a few days after the Holocaust Days of Remembrance and my own First Person interview and after my talks to high schools and synagogues about the Holocaust. That work turned out to be a kind of preparation for the exhausting, moving, and emotional trip that awaited me. Ania and I left Washington, DC, on May 9 for the beautiful landscapes of the Italian lakes where we spent the following eight days with my sister, Irena, and her husband, Manes. The overwhelming feeling of peace and serenity I felt there did not bring back the dark memories of the Holocaust.

    Tags:   echoes of memory, volume 10marcel drimerjewish communities before the warmass atrocitiesrescuerspolandmemorials

  • Silence

    When my dad and I arrived in the United States to be with our loving family on April 26, 1948, I was surprised—but not unhappy—that not one person asked me about our experience during the war. I understand that they were all mourning their six sisters, brothers, and other family lost in the Holocaust, but I presume that their silence was out of consideration for me.

    Tags:   echoes of memory, volume 10ruth cohenimmigrationfamilymemory

  • My Grandparents

    My paternal grandfather was a tall, kind, handsome man with a sweet smile and a beautiful beard. I was about seven years old when he died, but my memory of his funeral is very clear. The whole street was full of people paying their respects to him. He was an ombudsman after he retired from his business career. My grandmother was not very tall. She was also always smiling, but she was a very strict woman who also had her own business. We spent all the holidays at my grandparents’ table. The extended family was large, and so was the table.

    Tags:   echoes of memory, volume 10ruth cohenauschwitzgrandparentsholidays

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