Read reflections and testimonies written by Holocaust survivors in their own words.
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On Becoming an American
November 1, 2017
One bright spring day in 1956, my parents and I nervously faced a federal judge sitting in his private office in downtown Seattle, Washington. We were seated across from him at his desk. During the previous several months, the three of us had spent many hours studying a booklet in preparation for this day. The booklet contained questions and answers about the Constitution of the United States, the structure of the federal government, and some of the major historical events of this country. After asking us each several questions, easier ones for my parents, harder ones for me, the judge informed us with a very large smile that we had passed the test; he was ready to swear us in as naturalized citizens of the United States of America.
The Berlin Conference
November 1, 2015
When I heard that the World Federation of Jewish Child Survivors of the Holocaust and Descendants Conference was going to be held in Berlin, Germany, I felt very ambivalent about going. I was hesitant because my memories as a child born in Bad Kreuznach, Germany, were still painful because of the atrocities that the Nazis committed there. I felt uncomfortable listening to the German language and was suspicious about Germans my age and older. When new acquaintances asked me where I was born, I usually responded that I had been living in Washington, DC, for a long time. Only if they pushed me and asked where I was born did I reluctantly tell them. I did not want them to think that Germany was my “homeland,” because I never thought that it was. On the other hand, I was enthusiastic about going to Berlin, because I wanted to confront these feelings and finally get over them.
November 1, 2011
The park, which housed a small museum and a caretaker’s cottage, could be entered by walking down a short concrete staircase. It was located across the street from our home and stood between us and the small shopping area of our town. It was a shortcut for me every time my mother asked me to go to the store for some item to prepare our dinner. The errands were of great value for me because they were my first forays into the world. I was doing something that an adult does by having the responsibility of taking care of my family. So it was always with great pride that I strolled through the park, with Phennigs in hand, to accomplish what was needed to nourish my parents, my brothers, and me.
Negotiating with the Gestapo
September 18, 2005
After Kristallnacht, I returned to my hometown in Bremen, in northwest Germany. A number of Jews had been released from concentration camps. I had been set free after eight days of imprisonment. I was then in Würzburg, Bavaria, where I had gone to school. The Nazis called these arrests “protective custody.” From whom did we need protection?
Two Decent Germans
September 8, 2005
I met them at the first concentration camp I was sent to. Their appearances and personalities were completely different from each other. One, called Shaika, was emaciated, thin. He had to wear suspenders to hold up his trousers. He had a lean, drawn face, protruding cheekbones, searching eyes, and a pipe forever hanging from the side of his mouth—even when it wasn’t lit.