Read reflections and testimonies written by Holocaust survivors in their own words.
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November 17, 2022
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.”
America under Attack
October 22, 2020
About 60 years ago my mother and I arrived in the United States. As we ate breakfast on the SS Rijndam, tears welled up as we had our first long-anticipated view of the Statue of Liberty. To us, America was “The New World,” a country where everyone had the opportunity to thrive, a country that welcomed the stranger, a country with none of the narrow-mindedness and antisemitism that persisted in Europe even after the Holocaust. As we stood at the railing waiting for our turn with the immigration officer, we marveled at the heavy protective gloves worn by dockworkers as they unloaded huge crates, and at the cups of coffee they were served on the loading platforms when it came time for a break. Surely this was the real workers’ paradise!
My Favorite Language
October 23, 2019
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.
The Final Days
August 22, 2004
In April 1945, the demolition crew to which my father and I belonged was working near an SS facility when a line of military trucks moved slowly down the street, pushed—we hardly could believe our eyes—by a group of SS men. It was an exhilarating sight, pure unalloyed schadenfreude.