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

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  • Manufactured Reality

    Masha Gessen, a Russian American journalist and author, has been an outspoken critic of Vladimir Putin. Gessen has called what passes as news in Russia as “manufactured reality,” which refers to the daily stories covered by state-controlled media. Among Putin’s distortions are his argument that Ukraine is not a nation, that Ukrainians are not a people, and that the invasion and killing of civilians is not a war but a “special military operation.” The stated aim of Putin’s action was to “demilitarize and denazify” a country of 40 million people, which is led by a Jewish president who was elected democratically by 70 percent of the population. The ousted head of the leading Russian public opinion research organization states that current Russian propaganda is full of “lies and hatred on the fantastical scale.”

    Tags:   peter steinechoes of memory, volume 14propagandaczechoslovakiaoccupationradiod-daylondongrandfather

  • Food Desired and Food Denied

    I was seven years old in 1943 when my father disappeared. It was the fourth year of the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia, and he was not at home. I kept asking my mother about my father, and her standard reply became, “Don’t worry—he is on a business trip and will be back as soon as he can.” At first, I believed her, but I wanted a fuller explanation. I missed my father terribly, but my mother never told me that he was assigned to a hard labor battalion or, later in 1944, that he was sent to Theresienstadt. She could not tell me the truth.

    Tags:   peter steinechoes of memory, volume 14forced laboroccupationczechoslovakiaparentsfoodtheresienstadt

  • The Uilenburgersjoel

    The Uilenburgersjoel (Uilenburger Synagogue) was built in Amsterdam in 1735, in the center of the Jewish quarter. Regular services were held there from 1735 until 1942. The Jewish quarter was a lively area in the center of Amsterdam where people spoke Dutch with some Yiddish and Hebrew woven into the language. Next to the sjoel was a large square, het Waterlooplein. A market was held at the square every day but Saturday. The women got together to share their family news; they gossiped and bought their food for the day. The sjoel was in the center of it all.

    Tags:   louise lawrence israëlsechoes of memory, volume 14jewish communities before the waroccupationamsterdamsynagogueslife after the holocaust

  • Sisterhood

    I have a sister, 14 months younger than me, named Zsuzsi. Her name was changed to Shosha in Israel. She was a beautiful, sweet little girl loved by everyone. Our relationship changed when we got older and she realized that she did not have to do everything I asked her to. As the older sister, it seemed to me natural that whatever I was asked to do I should forward it to her. She used to comply in order to please me, but this came to an end when she realized that all those requests were my jobs and my responsibilities.

    Tags:   agi gevaechoes of memory, volume 14familyoccupationhungarylife after the holocaust

  • Sitting at the Survivors’ Desk

    On Wednesday mornings at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, I sit at a desk where other Holocaust survivors and I meet Museum visitors. I tell my story, and the story of my family’s survival.

    Tags:   george salamonechoes of memory, volume 13occupationvolunteering at the museum

  • Polana, Czechoslovakia

    My grandfather, Mayer Weiss, lived in Polana before World War I, when the village was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. After World War I, Czechoslovakia was established and  included the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Karpatska Russ (Carpathian Russ), where we lived.

    Tags:   martin weissechoes of memory, volume 13aftermath of the holocaustczechoslovakiaimmigrationoccupationfamily

  • Democracy Shattered

    We I came to the United States, I was 16 years old, and I went religiously to night school, anxious to learn everything about my new adopted country such as the language, the Bill of Rights, etc. Mrs. Durst, my teacher, was a very nice person and a good teacher. She stressed the greatness of the Constitution and the “Four Freedoms.” As time went on, she suggested I read the New York Times to improve my language skills. By that time, I spoke four languages and was able to read and write in all of them.

    Tags:   martin weissechoes of memory, volume 12anti-jewish legislationaryanizationforced laboroccupation

  • My Favorite Language

    My first language, my mother tongue, was German. As a young girl living in Bad Kreuznach, Germany, I spoke only German with my parents and my friends. I attended first grade in the German public school shortly after the Nazis came into power. My teacher read Der Giftpilz (The Poisonous Mushroom) and the children made fun of me because I was Jewish. By 1938, I heard a considerable amount of Nazi propaganda on the radio and all around me. Therefore, the German language was something that I came to fear. It was uncomfortable for me to hear it even as an adult, far away from Germany, safe from past experiences. My family did not speak German here in the United States because we wanted to become Americans and learn English so that no one would make fun of us. When people spoke to me in German, I always answered in English. My vocabulary and reading level at the present time in that language is not much higher than Ashenproedel (Cinderella) and other fairy tales. Now, in the autumn of my life, I feel that it is about time that I toss away this aversion to my mother tongue, though it is still difficult. 

    Tags:   echoes of memory, volume 12susan warsingerantisemitismoccupationpropaganda

  • The Cello in My Life

    Music has always been a large part of my life. I recall, when I was perhaps six years old, my mother would play songs on the piano from “Blanche Neige et les sept Nains” (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs), and my sister and I would sing along.

    Tags:   echoes of memory, volume 11jacqueline mendels birnlife after the holocaustoccupationparisvolunteering at the museum

  • Daily Miracles That Saved the Mendels Family

    It was a miracle that while my father continued going to his office after the “Aryanization” of his business with his Jewish star on, he was not arrested and taken away to an internment camp between May 1941, when Jews were first rounded up, and the end of July 1942, when we fled.

    Tags:   echoes of memory, volume 11jacqueline mendels birndenunciationoccupationresistancefamily

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