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

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  • Post–Korea

    I went into the army shortly after we moved in Brooklyn from a small apartment on the corner of Thirty-Sixth Street and Flatbush Avenue to a more spacious house on Fifty-Ninth Street off King’s Highway and Remsen Avenue. This move accommodated my sister’s family who had recently emigrated from Israel to live with us. When I left the United States Army and my military pay ceased, and with my mother now a widow, I needed to find employment. I took my time looking for a job after mustering out from active duty in the early days of summer 1954. I felt unsettled and took aptitude tests offered by B’nai B’rith to identify paths to my future. These tests showed a distinct and significant predilection to music, although I never studied or played any instruments. I knew absolutely nothing about music except that I loved listening to it, especially symphonies, chamber music, and operas. 

    Tags:   echoes of memory, volume 12michel margosislife after the holocaustfamilyus army

  • Hiding/Onderduiken

    When I was little, I had no idea what hiding meant, not even the game of hide-and-seek, so loved by children. The terms going “into hiding,” being “in hiding,” or “hiding place” were not part of my vocabulary. Even going outside for the first time, when I was almost three years old, I did not associate it with having been in hiding. 

    Tags:   echoes of memory, volume 12louise lawrence israëlslouise lawrence-israëlshidinglife 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

  • “Volunteering” for Service in Poland

    Government Agricultural Farms known as Panstwowe Gospodarstwa Rolnicze (PGRs) were established in the late 1940s on large farms confiscated from rich farmers. These farms were now owned by the government, as well as the large farms in the Regained Territories incorporated into Poland from Germany after World War II. They were fashioned on the Soviet Kolkhozes (collective farms), and were equally unproductive. Many farmers left the PGRs for a somewhat better life in towns and, as a result, there was a shortage of farm workers. 

    Tags:   echoes of memory, volume 12marcel drimerlife after the holocaustpoland

  • Small World

    My 13th birthday on May 1, 1947, was approaching, and my parents decided that I should have a bar mitzvah. At that time my family lived in Wałbrzych, a formerly German town where many of the refugees from the Polish territories taken over by the Soviet Union had settled. Wałbrzych was a “Wild West” town, full of people from all over Poland—Germans waiting deportation to Germany, criminals, looters, fortune seekers, and about 4,000 Jews. We left Drohobycz, where I was born, because it became a part of the Ukrainian Republic of the Soviet Union. 

    Tags:   echoes of memory, volume 12marcel drimerlife after the holocaustreligion

  • My “Career” in the Polish Army

    In the 1950s in communist Poland, military service was mandatory for all men starting at age 18. Physically fit university students had to attend officer training courses. Most high-ranking officers of the Polish Armed Forces were Poles born and educated in Russia. Each university trained officers in a different specialty; ours was military engineers, sometimes called Sappers. One day each week, in my case on Tuesday, we would put on our uniforms and attend classes and practice at the shooting range. We studied the structure and strategy of the US Armed Forces as the enemy that we eventually might face in the next war. 

    Tags:   echoes of memory, volume 12marcel drimerlife after the holocaustpolandpostwar experience

  • My Friends Sidi and Milek Natansohn

    I met Sidi (Sidonia) in July 1948 at my first job in this country. I arrived in the United States in April 1948. We worked side by side as floor girls in a clothing factory and quickly became good friends. We talked a lot as we were working, but I got caught talking and was fired as a result. 

    Tags:   echoes of memory, volume 12ruth cohenlife after the holocaustimmigrationunited states

  • Living Up to Our Values

    When I arrived in the United States after World War II at age 16, I was very anxious to move on with my life and not let my experiences during the Holocaust define me. I got a job in a grocery store and with help from my brother-in-law, I rented a room from a Hungarian family so I could be independent. That helped because I spoke Hungarian. My biggest problem was I did not speak or understand a word of English. So, I enrolled in night school. I was taught English, but also learned about US history and the Constitution. The teacher, Mrs. Durst, was a very nice, elderly lady who stressed how great American democracy is, that we are a country of laws. I knew about democracy because I grew up in Czechoslovakia and I went to Czech schools until the fourth grade. Then the war started and our school was closed.

    Tags:   echoes of memory, volume 11martin weisslife after the holocaustracismunited statesvolunteering at the museum

  • A Life in a Box

    My family, what some might call my biological family, lived in a box: a box roughly the size of a shoebox but much more elegant, a powder-blue flip-top box adorned with pink lilacs that had been used to display high-end perfumed soap bars—Boldoot or Castella—in Mom’s cosmetics store. The box was filled with photographs that introduced me to a world inhabited, in addition to my mom whom I had gotten to know in the flesh, by a dad, sisters, grandparents, and aunts and uncles whom I would otherwise never have met. I don’t remember when Mom first introduced me to the family in the box. It certainly wasn’t immediately after we had been reunited. I wasn’t quite four and my mom’s sudden addition to the family I already had—Papa, Mima, Willie, Dewie, and Robby—was more than enough for me to deal with. But I did come to understand soon after, that I had two sisters, portrayed in large, colorized photographs that were displayed wherever Mom and I came to live in those early years after we were reunited. My older sister, Eva, wore a blue dress and held her favorite doll, and my younger sister, Leah, wore a cream-colored dress. Eva had a broad smile, and Leah was more serious, apprehensive even. I must admit that I was somewhat envious of the attention my mother and others paid to my sisters. 

    Tags:   echoes of memory, volume 11alfred münzerlife after the holocaustremembrancefamily

  • They Are Coming for Me

    It's 5 A.M. A brief knock on the door and it opens. Simultaneously, the bright lights go on in the room. A small man wearing a white jacket walks in, carrying what looks like a box with a handle similar to what a hot dog vendor uses at a baseball game. It contains plastic tubes organized by the color of their corks. “A small pinch … .” That’s how phlebotomists warn you as they stick a needle in one of your veins. I used to be squeamish, but by now it’s become routine. Nevertheless, I look away as the needle is inserted in my arm and my blood begins to fill the small tubes.

    Tags:   echoes of memory, volume 11harry markowiczdeportationslife after the holocaustmemoryparents