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

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  • The Gas Mask

    Herr Tamer lived at the end of the hall. He was a tall gaunt man, a very private man, or so it seemed to me as a nine year old—a lonely figure who responded pleasantly to my greeting when our paths crossed. One day he knocked at our door and asked if he could come in to listen to Hitler’s speech. He didn’t own a radio and knew we had one that, even though it was old, was better than nothing.

    Tags:   alfred traumechoes of memory, volume 7anti-jewish legislationantisemitismkindertransportminskparents

  • Writing as a Pathway

    I arrived in the United States on November 11, 1947. I was an unhappy child torn from my second home to come to a new land with family I hardly knew. My sister and I were met in New York by two uncles—one my sister knew from Germany and one an unknown American uncle. I knew neither. So I began my journey to becoming an American and eventually a Holocaust survivor.

    Tags:   esther starobinechoes of memory, volume 7documenting the holocaustlife after the holocaustparentsvolunteering at the museum

  • Dunkirk: May 1940

    Following the German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, Britain and France declared war on Germany. The British Expeditionary Force was posted at the French-Belgian border to prevent Germany from invading France. Between the two world wars, France had built the Maginot Line—formidable fortifications along its border with Germany. On May 10, 1940, Germany invaded the neutral countries of Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands in order to bypass the Maginot Line and to invade France where its defenses were weakest. British troops then moved into Belgium to try to stop the German advance toward France.

    Tags:   harry markowiczechoes of memory, volume 7belgiumfrancerefugeesmemoryparents

  • To Give Up or Not

    In April 2012, President Barack Obama came to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to talk about the government’s efforts to fight genocide wherever it exists. He also announced awarding posthumously the Medal of Freedom to Jan Karski, a Polish hero whom we, Polish Jews, admire. The president addressed Holocaust survivors, sitting in the front rows, as those who “never gave up.”

    Tags:   marcel drimerechoes of memory, volume 7life after the holocaustschoolsfamilyparents

  • Escape from the Ghetto

    Conditions in the Drohobycz ghetto in the summer of 1943 were unbearable. They included hunger, frequent Aktions*, and indiscriminate beatings and killings. The Germans were forcing the Judenrat (Jewish Council) to deliver 100 women and old people every week for executions or deportation to Belzec. Constant fear was the order of the day. There were other signs that the ghetto would be liquidated soon, so my father decided to smuggle out my mother, my sister, Irena, and me by bribing the guard who was taking the workers to and from the ghetto. It was still dark when my mother, dressed in men’s clothing, hid my sister under her coat; my father took me the same way and we marched out of the ghetto.

    Tags:   marcel drimerechoes of memory, volume 7ghettosescaperescuersrighteous among the nationsparents

  • My Father’s Pocket Watch

    Born in Paris, France, in 1935, Jacqueline fled with her family to the Vichy-controlled southern region of France, where they lived together under surveillance for the remainder of the war.

    Tags:   jacqueline mendels birnechoes of memory, volume 7occupationparisparents

  • The Tray

    Six yellow flowers, four rather aged pieces of vanilla cake, three cookies of different designs that had been around for quite a while, a few pieces of candy that had wrappers with French writing in large red and blue letters, five dates stuffed with coconut, and several doilies cut out of paper napkins daintily peeking out below the delicacies were all lavishly laid out on a tray that had been used many times. It came out of the old kitchen of the Chateau de Morelles. This brown tray, so caringly decorated, was placed on my bed before I woke up early on my tenth birthday.

    Tags:   susan warsingerechoes of memory, volume 6schoolsfriendslettersparentsmemory

  • The Kiddush Cup

    It was always the same. Ushering the Sabbath, my father held the silver kiddush cup in the flat palm of his hand with his thumb resting against the brim of the cup, his head held high, eyes half closed as he recited the blessing over the wine. We all took a sip from the cup. That, together with all the other festive traditional activities, was carried out in proper order. Any bystander would have thought this was just an ordinary Friday night in a Jewish home. So it would have seemed. But I am sure that both our parents’ hearts were breaking. My sister and I were leaving for England on the following Tuesday. This would be our last Sabbath dinner together. Although we thought that we would soon be reunited, our parents knew the difficulties that lay ahead. And indeed, it was the last Sabbath meal we shared.

    Tags:   alfred traumechoes of memory, volume 6parentsmemorylife after the holocaustviennaholidays

  • The Last Letter

    The last letter my parents sent from the camps in France arrived in May 1942. My sister, Bertl, held on to this letter and the others from our parents for 68 years. When she came to live in Washington, DC, in 1947, the letters traveled with her. Bertl has held on to the letters through all her moves in the DC area.

    Tags:   esther starobinechoes of memory, volume 6letterslife after the holocaustdocumenting the holocaustparents

  • Liberation Day

    Four years go by before I see another British soldier. The last one had been near the French-Belgian border when the British Expeditionary Force was being evacuated from the nearby beaches at Dunkirk. Again I’m with my mother. Before leaving the apartment she has told me that the Germans have run away but I don’t understand where we are going and why my father is not coming with us. She tries to explain to me it has been two years since he has been outside and he is not ready to face people. Along the way, many people are rushing in the same direction. My mother too is in a hurry but we pass a burning tank and I stop to look at it. No one else pays any attention but I’m fascinated by the flames rising from the turret. My mother pulls me away and we merge with the people who are passing by us. We arrive in a park where we join a large crowd of cheering people.

    Tags:   harry markowiczechoes of memory, volume 6liberationmemoryparents