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

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  • Yahrzeit

    Yahrzeit is the Jewish yearly observance of a loved one’s death. Traditionally, we light a candle at home and recite the kaddish in the synagogue in their memory. I learned the words of the kaddish sometime in 1950 when I was eight or nine, shortly after my mother found out the precise date of my father’s death—July 25, 1945, which translated to the Hebrew date 15 Av—in what had been the Ebensee concentration camp. I have observed the ritual ever since. The kaddish makes no reference to mourning but is a reaffirmation of our faith in the Almighty despite our loss.

    Tags:   alfred münzerechoes of memory, volume 13childrenebenseememory

  • Arthur and Helga

    All I know about my early life comes from photographs and the stories my mother told me. Yesterday, I received a photograph I had never seen before. It opened a whole new chapter, and it left me stunned and speechless. It is the earliest picture I have of me together with my mother. The photo was one of many I received in an email from an unremembered friend, Arthur Friederizi.

    Tags:   alfred münzerechoes of memory, volume 13hidingrescuersmemory

  • Obligations

    My sister Bertl was always present in my life. Bertl was the person who guided our siblings and me to become a strong, cohesive family. She was opinionated and had a clear vision of what was right and wrong. Maybe it was her German birth. But she is gone now, as are my other three siblings. So, I ask myself, what are my obligations to keep the family strong and resilient? 

    Tags:   echoes of memory, volume 12esther rosenfeld starobinesther starobinauschwitzkindertransportmemoryfamily

  • Schiffchen oder Hütchen (Little Boat or Little Hat)

    I always marvel at the ability that my friends and colleagues have to remember the small details of their childhood. I, too, want to see the world the way I experienced it when I was a very young girl. For me, it is just so difficult to recollect, a demand on my mind. I am sure that it is not because I want to erase it due to what I went through. I just worry because I cannot remember. It makes me feel good when my daughter, Terese, assures me that it is “because there is just a lot to remember.”

    Tags:   echoes of memory, volume 11susan warsingeranti-jewish legislationjewish communities before the warresistancememory

  • Tracing Roots through Our Ancestors

    I remember visits to my maternal grandparents every Christmas. Though we are Jewish, this was the time we made our annual visit. My grandfather Stefan (Shmuel) Schreiber worked as an accountant for the Wedel Chocolate Factory and used to bring foil paper so I could shape it into a ball to play with. Grandmother Regina was always at her sewing machine, where she had a lot of treasures, including a fascinating box of buttons, which I played with when I was five years old. They lived in the center of Krakow in an apartment with a balcony. This was very important, my mother told me, because it was used to great effect to hide the Christmas tree from my grandfather’s notice. He was liberal, but the tree was just too much for him to allow. My grandfather had moved the family from a suburb of Krakow into the city so the children could go to Polish public schools. They didn’t speak Yiddish at home, only Polish.

    Tags:   echoes of memory, volume 11halina yasharoff peabodyoccupied polandremembrancefamilymemory

  • 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

  • The Staircase

    In the last eight months before we were liberated, plane traffic over Holland increased a lot. Most planes were bombers originating in Germany, flying over Holland to reach England to bomb British cities. Or our Allies came from England and also flew over Holland to reach Germany and bomb German cities.

    Tags:   echoes of memory, volume 11louise lawrence israëlslouise lawrence-israëlshidingliberationmemory

  • Life Is Good

    Ruth Cohen, from Mukachevo, Czechoslovakia, was first imprisoned with her sister in Auschwitz in April 1944, then several other concentration and work camps beginning in October of the same year.

    Tags:   ruth cohenechoes of memory, volume 9slovakiafamilymemory

  • Thank You, Father

    How can you say “thank you” to someone who gave you the most precious thing anyone can have: your own life? And, what if you never had a chance to get to know him? This is a question I face a few times every year, when our Jewish traditions compel us to remember those loved ones who are not with us anymore.

    Tags:   echoes of memory, volume 10peter goroglife after the holocaustmemoryparents

  • Silence

    When my dad and I arrived in the United States to be with our loving family on April 26, 1948, I was surprised—but not unhappy—that not one person asked me about our experience during the war. I understand that they were all mourning their six sisters, brothers, and other family lost in the Holocaust, but I presume that their silence was out of consideration for me.

    Tags:   echoes of memory, volume 10ruth cohenimmigrationfamilymemory