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

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  • Democracy Shattered

    We I came to the United States, I was 16 years old, and I went religiously to night school, anxious to learn everything about my new adopted country such as the language, the Bill of Rights, etc. Mrs. Durst, my teacher, was a very nice person and a good teacher. She stressed the greatness of the Constitution and the “Four Freedoms.” As time went on, she suggested I read the New York Times to improve my language skills. By that time, I spoke four languages and was able to read and write in all of them.

    Tags:   martin weissechoes of memory, volume 12

  • My Favorite Language

    My first language, my mother tongue, was German. As a young girl living in Bad Kreuznach, Germany, I spoke only German with my parents and my friends. I attended first grade in the German public school shortly after the Nazis came into power. My teacher read Der Giftpilz (The Poisonous Mushroom) and the children made fun of me because I was Jewish. By 1938, I heard a considerable amount of Nazi propaganda on the radio and all around me. Therefore, the German language was something that I came to fear. It was uncomfortable for me to hear it even as an adult, far away from Germany, safe from past experiences. My family did not speak German here in the United States because we wanted to become Americans and learn English so that no one would make fun of us. When people spoke to me in German, I always answered in English. My vocabulary and reading level at the present time in that language is not much higher than Ashenproedel (Cinderella) and other fairy tales. Now, in the autumn of my life, I feel that it is about time that I toss away this aversion to my mother tongue, though it is still difficult. 

    Tags:   echoes of memory, volume 12susan warsinger

  • Another View of a Survivor

    The survivors who volunteer at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum were notified about a new project to help younger audiences relate to us and I thought it was a fine idea. We were told that members of the Museum’s marketing team had conceptualized a new video series. They envisioned a casual video conversation with us, focusing on parts of our life beyond the Holocaust, “something you are passionate about—a hobby, a moment in your career, or events or experiences that show a more complete view of who you are as people, as individuals.” 

    Tags:   echoes of memory, volume 12susan warsinger

  • Maiden Voyage

    Friday, the day of departure for our maiden voyage, had finally arrived. By 10 a.m. passengers began to embark, a very different and diverse group from those who had joined us in Gibraltar. For the most part, they were holiday makers or returning tourists. Hundreds of them, with bright smiling faces, walked up the wide gangway to be welcomed aboard by the purser’s representative. Before entering the ship they all turned back to give a quick wave to family or friends who had come to see them off on their journey. There appeared to be quite a number of American students returning home. They congregated in clusters on the decks and lounges excitedly comparing notes of their experiences while in Israel. Also noticeable were some of the older passengers, whose demeanor was that of anxious anticipation, possibly contemplating their reunion with long-lost relatives who had survived the war and made their way to the United States. The composition of the passengers had all the indications of what would turn out to be an interesting two weeks ahead of us. By mid-afternoon we were ready to sail. It looked as though all of Haifa had turned out to wish us bon voyage. The ships in the harbor gave their salutations as we slipped out of the harbor into the open sea. 

    Tags:   echoes of memory, volume 12alfred traum

  • Britain’s Response

    Britain's response to the mass violence against Jews on Kristallnacht (the “Night of Broken Glass”) on November 9-10, 1938, was to offer a safe haven to children at risk living under the Nazi yoke, and thus the Kindertransport program was born. By the time World War II broke out on September 1, 1939, approximately 10,000 children had arrived in Britain via the Kindertransport program. In many cases, parents made that heart-wrenching decision to send their children away without knowing if they would ever be reunited. But by taking that step, the parents saved their children’s lives. 

    Tags:   echoes of memory, volume 12alfred traum

  • Obligations

    My sister Bertl was always present in my life. Bertl was the person who guided our siblings and me to become a strong, cohesive family. She was opinionated and had a clear vision of what was right and wrong. Maybe it was her German birth. But she is gone now, as are my other three siblings. So, I ask myself, what are my obligations to keep the family strong and resilient? 

    Tags:   echoes of memory, volume 12esther rosenfeld starobinesther starobin

  • People Have Choices

    The Museum has the motto “What You Do Matters,” and it is so true. 

    Tags:   echoes of memory, volume 12george salamon

  • Impressions of Contemporary Polish Jewish Life

    On October 14, 2018, I attended the Generation After Fall Tea at Beth El Synagogue in Bethesda. The speaker was Emanuel Thorne, professor of Economics at Brooklyn College. He represented Generation After on a “unique” study trip in June 2018 sponsored by the Polish Embassy in Washington, DC. He shared his impressions of contemporary Polish Jewish life, the complex issues emerging, his experiences with the Jewish and Polish leadership, and future prospects. He told the audience that he was impressed with the various Jewish activities in present-day Poland and overall friendly atmosphere toward the Jews. 

    Tags:   echoes of memory, volume 12halina yasharoff peabody

  • 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

  • The War Is Over (Or Is It Ever?)

    In 1955, four years after my family's arrival in the United States from Balgium, I graduated from Garfield High School in Seattle. Although the student population was extremely diverse culturally, religiously, and racially, during my time there I felt like an outsider—even after I became fluent in English and made new friends. 

    Tags:   echoes of memory, volume 12harry markowicz

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