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

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  • Many Times Born, Many Times Died

    All of us have had the experience of being born one time. If you are a Holocaust survivor, like me, you may have been born many times and died many times, as well.

    Tags:   echoes of memory, volume 11martin weiss

  • Living Up to Our Values

    When I arrived in the United States after World War II at age 16, I was very anxious to move on with my life and not let my experiences during the Holocaust define me. I got a job in a grocery store and with help from my brother-in-law, I rented a room from a Hungarian family so I could be independent. That helped because I spoke Hungarian. My biggest problem was I did not speak or understand a word of English. So, I enrolled in night school. I was taught English, but also learned about US history and the Constitution. The teacher, Mrs. Durst, was a very nice, elderly lady who stressed how great American democracy is, that we are a country of laws. I knew about democracy because I grew up in Czechoslovakia and I went to Czech schools until the fourth grade. Then the war started and our school was closed.

    Tags:   echoes of memory, volume 11martin weiss

  • Schiffchen oder Hütchen (Little Boat or Little Hat)

    I always marvel at the ability that my friends and colleagues have to remember the small details of their childhood. I, too, want to see the world the way I experienced it when I was a very young girl. For me, it is just so difficult to recollect, a demand on my mind. I am sure that it is not because I want to erase it due to what I went through. I just worry because I cannot remember. It makes me feel good when my daughter, Terese, assures me that it is “because there is just a lot to remember.”

    Tags:   echoes of memory, volume 11susan warsinger

  • Rosh Hashanah This Year

    In previous years, my daughters and their husbands, my grandchildren, and other family members celebrated the beginning of the new Jewish year with a great feast. I took it for granted that we would always have our Jewishness in common. This year, the Jewish year of 5778, another new member has been added to our family. Her name is Sehar, a beautiful and intelligent young woman who recently married my oldest grandchild, Matthew. She is Indian and Muslim. I have learned some Indian and Muslim customs since meeting her family, especially during the preparations for the wedding.

    Tags:   echoes of memory, volume 11susan warsinger

  • Mamlock House

    Two years ago I was on a nostalgic visit to Manchester, England, where I had lived. I visited Mamlock House, a Jewish center where many meetings and lectures were given.

    Tags:   echoes of memory, volume 11alfred traum

  • Tracing Roots through Our Ancestors

    I remember visits to my maternal grandparents every Christmas. Though we are Jewish, this was the time we made our annual visit. My grandfather Stefan (Shmuel) Schreiber worked as an accountant for the Wedel Chocolate Factory and used to bring foil paper so I could shape it into a ball to play with. Grandmother Regina was always at her sewing machine, where she had a lot of treasures, including a fascinating box of buttons, which I played with when I was five years old. They lived in the center of Krakow in an apartment with a balcony. This was very important, my mother told me, because it was used to great effect to hide the Christmas tree from my grandfather’s notice. He was liberal, but the tree was just too much for him to allow. My grandfather had moved the family from a suburb of Krakow into the city so the children could go to Polish public schools. They didn’t speak Yiddish at home, only Polish.

    Tags:   echoes of memory, volume 11halina yasharoff peabody

  • 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

  • They Are Coming for Me

    It's 5 A.M. A brief knock on the door and it opens. Simultaneously, the bright lights go on in the room. A small man wearing a white jacket walks in, carrying what looks like a box with a handle similar to what a hot dog vendor uses at a baseball game. It contains plastic tubes organized by the color of their corks. “A small pinch … .” That’s how phlebotomists warn you as they stick a needle in one of your veins. I used to be squeamish, but by now it’s become routine. Nevertheless, I look away as the needle is inserted in my arm and my blood begins to fill the small tubes.

    Tags:   echoes of memory, volume 11harry markowicz

  • Collateral Damage

    The much anticipated Allied landing in Normandy began on June 6, 1944. In addition to ground forces, large formations of Allied bombers—Americans flying at high altitudes in the daytime and the British at lower altitudes at night—were increasingly trying to disrupt the movement of German troops and supplies toward the front. Air raids of bridges, railroad junctures, and airports became almost routine in Belgium, where my family had taken refuge after fleeing from Berlin before the start of World War II. With revenge in our hearts, we cheered for the Allied airmen while hoping we would not become their unintended victims. 

    Tags:   echoes of memory, volume 11harry markowicz

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