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

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  • Sofie’s Memorial

    In August 2008, my son Mike and I traveled to Prague to see my birthplace, explore the city, and pay our respects to Sofie, my grandmother. First, we explored the world of Bohemian beer. Mike wondered whether Josef Stein, Mike’s great-grandfather, played a role in selling hops, yeast, and barley to brewers in Eastern Europe? Mike often recreated historic beers, and he was eager to learn if Josef had any beer-brewing experiences.

    Tags:   peter steinechoes of memory, volume 14praguetheresienstadtcrematoriafoodmemorygrandparents

  • Food Desired and Food Denied

    I was seven years old in 1943 when my father disappeared. It was the fourth year of the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia, and he was not at home. I kept asking my mother about my father, and her standard reply became, “Don’t worry—he is on a business trip and will be back as soon as he can.” At first, I believed her, but I wanted a fuller explanation. I missed my father terribly, but my mother never told me that he was assigned to a hard labor battalion or, later in 1944, that he was sent to Theresienstadt. She could not tell me the truth.

    Tags:   peter steinechoes of memory, volume 14forced laboroccupationczechoslovakiaparentsfoodtheresienstadt

  • Torte of Many Memories

    I am not good at changing tires, ice skating, or mending socks. What I am good at is baking, especially my signature dish, which is a walnut torte. Since I was a young girl, I was helping my mother with the torte: chopping the walnuts, watching how she mixed the eggs with sugar until they became almost white, and marveling at the egg whites when they became white and frothy and almost doubled in size. Then we would mix everything together, bake it, and after an hour, a beautiful, wonderfully smelling cake would come out from the oven. I felt a great closeness with my mother at that moment and appreciated that she introduced me to a wonderful world of baking.

    Tags:   ania drimerechoes of memory, volume 14holidaysfoodparentsmemorylife after the holocaust

  • Dreams

    June, 1944. My family was in a concentration camp; my mother, Rosalia, my sister Shosha, 13 years old, and me, Agi, 14 years old. My father, Zoltan, had died a few months earlier, on the same day that the Germans occupied Hungary. 

    Tags:   echoes of memory, volume 12agi gevaconcentration campslife after the holocaustfood

  • On to Marseille

    Frustrated after many weeks on the farm vainly awaiting developments, my mother decided to take the family to Marseille, the largest French seaport metropolis on the Mediterranean in Provence. She had hopes of personally seeking out the Persian legation for assistance in securing an exit visa for the four of us shown on Mother’s Persian passport. We arrived in the second largest city in France in mid-October 1941 with what little money Mother had managed to salvage.

    Tags:   michel margosisechoes of memory, volume 8marseillesfamilyfoodfriendsmemory

  • Hulda and Tante Anna

    I sometimes think about why I never met any of my grandparents. They lived in a small town in Poland called Kolomaya, which is now part of the Ukraine. My father told me that he left his family when he was 16 and immigrated to Germany because he did not want to join the Polish army. He acquired a job in a shoe store in Dusseldorf and made a life for himself. My mother also lived in Poland with her large family of seven brothers and sisters. She revealed to me when I was an adult, that since her family was poor and had many children, her mother gave her away to her well-off sister who lived in Viersen, Germany. This was my mother’s aunt and my great-aunt, Tante Anna. I was really astonished and had much compassion for my mother, because I had experienced this kind of separation from her during the Holocaust and I knew exactly what it felt like.

    Tags:   susan warsingerechoes of memory, volume 8rigafoodgrandparentsmemory

  • Winter Coats

    Winter of 1942 was severe. In the Drohobycz ghetto the Germans had decided to exterminate the Jews. The ways to achieve this were by starving or freezing them to death. The food rations were extremely small and there was no coal to heat the homes. People tried to avoid starvation in any way they could. Many of those who before the war worked in professions or trades had to resort to begging—after selling or bartering all their possessions for food, they had no other choice. Cold and hunger combined made people’s lives miserable. As a result, many starved to death. In the spring and summer the misery was intensified by an outbreak of typhus caused by outrageously unsanitary conditions. There were frequent Aktions during which we hid in a hole dug under the floor of our apartment, or in the lumber factory where my father worked. There were often rumors about forthcoming Aktions, which made life so very tense.

    Tags:   marcel drimerechoes of memory, volume 7escapeghettospoliceaktionfood

  • The Kindnesses

    In June 1941, the Germans occupied Lithuania within three days. Shauliai, the town where we lived, was taken over on the third day. We had heard what had happened to the Jews in Kaunas and in other cities. My brother Jecheskel was a student at the university in Kaunas and he had told my parents that the Nazis and their collaborators were looting Jewish homes. Jecheskel suggested that my parents try to ask some of their Lithuanian friends to hold some of our valuable things for safekeeping. My parents asked a few friends and some agreed to help us.

    Tags:   nesse godinechoes of memory, volume 6ghettosmass shootingsrescuersfoodjewish communities before the war

  • The Table

    The old family table now stands in the dining area of our house in Bethesda. The table was made in 1907 when my grandparents got married. It was made of solid mahogany wood in Holland. It was our custom to gather around it for big meals at birthdays, holidays, and any other excuse to be with family and friends. The table was made to seat 24. When it is closed, it seats eight, but you can pull it open and for each board you insert, another set of legs pops out from the bottom.

    Tags:   louise lawrence-israëlslouise lawrence israëlsechoes of memory, volume 5aryanizationoccupationfamilyfoodmemory

  • Smuggling

    By 1941, Jewish people in Belgium no longer received food ration stamps. The only way to obtain food was to buy it on the black market. Mama started to smuggle food across the border from northern France, where food was still more easily obtained and less expensive. Part of the food Mama bought was sold and some of it kept for the four of us—Mama, my two younger sisters, and me. Also, with the proceeds, we were able to buy perishables like milk and eggs, as well as some vegetables and fruit. During Mama’s trips, I stayed home to care for my two younger sisters, Charlotte and Betty, which was quite a responsibility for one not quite 11 years old.

    Tags:   flora singerechoes of memory, volume 4belgiumfrancefoodparents

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