Read reflections and testimonies written by Holocaust survivors in their own words.
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November 16, 2022
Reinkenstraat 67 is the address in Den Haag of an ordinary two-story home next to a fish market. It is an ordinary house on an ordinary street lined with ordinary small businesses and cafés. The address is less than a mile from the house where I was born and that my family called home until October 1942 when our family was torn apart, and we were forced to go into hiding. Reinkenstraat 67 is an address that Hannah Arendt might have called “banal,” an ordinary address where evil and mass murder assumed a personal dimension. A house I needed to see with my own two eyes, not to achieve closure, but to feel and bear witness to the depths to which the human soul can descend.
Putting a Name to a Hidden Face
November 16, 2022
Two of the most precious photographs I have of my family were taken at my brit milah, the ritual circumcision ceremony performed on all male Jewish babies when they are eight days old. Because I was born a year and a half into the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, my parents’ friends counseled against a circumcision. “It will identify him as being Jewish,” they said. My parents’ dilemma was solved when a pediatrician who examined me shortly after I was born told my father that I needed “a minor operation, called a circumcision.” My father then reminded him of our Jewish tradition and that I would be ritually circumcised. That is how family and friends came to gather in our home on December 1, 1941, to observe this first milestone of a Jewish life.
An Alternate View of the Sad Longing
November 14, 2022
When, at the age of five-and-a-half, I was left to survive by my own wits, I was well-equipped with some essential information. I knew by heart many prayers of the rosary. I had a new identity—a Catholic child whose parents had been taken to Siberia. My real mother was to be referred to as my aunt and my father as her friend.
November 1, 2015
Every Tuesday, I look forward to going to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to perform a few hours of volunteer work for the Visitor Services department. During the nation’s capital tourist season—March through August—dealing with the sheer volume of visitors is quite challenging. Fortunately, the Tuesday volunteers form a supportive team; we help each other carry the load. I suppose it’s the same on other days. The rest of the year is very different because the relatively smaller number of visitors doesn’t require our constant attention. To make the time go by and also to create a more welcoming environment, we talk with some of the visitors. For example, we inquire where they are from, or whether it’s their first visit to the Museum. We also speak with each other—the other volunteers, staff members, and interns—so we get to know each other better.
I Did It!
August 22, 2004
In May 1995, my husband Jack and I traveled to Brussels, Belgium, on a mission to attend a ceremony to be held at the Université Libre de Bruxelles. I was very excited. At the ceremony during that month, Yad Vashem, the memorial in Jerusalem for the Jews and others murdered during the frightful years of World War II and the Holocaust, was going to honor several “Just of the Nations,” the term for those who dared to risk their lives to save others condemned to death by the Nazis.