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

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  • Racism

    I was affected by racism from my birth. When I was two years old, my native France was invaded by her neighbor, Germany, who immediately started to implement anti-Jewish laws that affected me before I was old enough to know it. First, we were expelled from our home, which was the janitor’s house of the garment factory where my father worked as an accountant. We had to find an apartment overnight, in the middle of the war and in the midst of a terrible housing crisis. I was four years old.

    Tags:   albert garihechoes of memory, volume 14anti-jewish legislationfranceantisemitismracismlife after the holocaust

  • Mireille

    It was in the spring of 1944 during the time after my father had been taken to a slave labor camp, where he was assigned to building the Atlantic Wall to stop the Allies’ invasion. My mother, my sisters, and I were staying with the Galop family who had offered to take us into hiding so we wouldn’t be arrested and deported by the Gestapo, the French police, or the French militia. Monsieur Galop, who was a very talented builder—his job was to build sets for the movie studios—had erected a small shelter in their yard for our protection against the bombardments. I don’t think that flimsy construction would have saved us if a bomb had fallen in their yard, but it gave us comfort in case of danger.

    Tags:   albert garihechoes of memory, volume 14forced laborhidingfrancememory

  • 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

  • Dunkirk: May 1940

    Following the German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, Britain and France declared war on Germany. The British Expeditionary Force was posted at the French-Belgian border to prevent Germany from invading France. Between the two world wars, France had built the Maginot Line—formidable fortifications along its border with Germany. On May 10, 1940, Germany invaded the neutral countries of Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands in order to bypass the Maginot Line and to invade France where its defenses were weakest. British troops then moved into Belgium to try to stop the German advance toward France.

    Tags:   harry markowiczechoes of memory, volume 7belgiumfrancerefugeesmemoryparents

  • How I Came to Write My Memories

    When I grew up in Paris, after we survived World War II, there was not much talk at home about what we had endured. I knew that all of our close relatives were dead, I no longer had grandparents or cousins or aunts and uncles. I envied my school friends who went for lunch and holidays at their relatives’ homes.

    Tags:   jacqueline mendels birnechoes of memory, volume 7francehidingfamilymemory

  • The Interpreter

    It looked like the Fourth of July from our attic window in a small village in France. Only it was not fireworks that were exploding in midair; it was bombs being dropped from German airplanes on our beloved city of Paris. We watched in awe at the spectacle that was being displayed in front of us. We were young children, and we could not imagine what was to come.

    Tags:   susan warsingerechoes of memory, volume 5francegerman militaryparismemory

  • Separation

    After the night of broken glass, when the Nazis organized and carried out a pogrom of anti-Jewish violence, my parents—like most Jews in Germany—wanted to leave. There was no more waiting to find out if events such as Kristallnacht would cease, or if life would ever be normal again for all of us. Our first choice was to come to the United States, where we had cousins living in New York. They were most anxious to assist us by sending us tickets for the voyage and helping us settle in this new land. However, like most countries, the United States had a quota which had been established many years before and, therefore, we found it impossible to immigrate.

    Tags:   susan warsingerechoes of memory, volume 4hidingmemoryparentsfrance

  • 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