Read reflections and testimonies written by Holocaust survivors in their own words.
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Jarosław, Living as Catholics
November 16, 2022
When our captor left us, the three of us found ourselves standing on a sidewalk of a strange city. We had no luggage, little money, only the few zlotys that he returned. Mother spotted a little café and decided to walk in. She requested some milk for my sister and then started asking customers if anybody knew of a place where we could find lodging. A young man got up and said he knew a washerwoman who took lodgers and offered to take us there
November 16, 2022
Aix-les-Bains is an idyllic thermal bath resort located in a basin formed by the French Alps to one side and the Jura mountains to the other, and is a place frequented by such luminaries as Queen Victoria and the Aga Khan. But to me Aix stands for a way of living that has guided me since I was 15.
September 30, 2022
Taharah: what is it, why do we do it, and who does it? We translate the Hebrew word taharah as the purification of a dead body. According to our Bible, every person who enters this world arrives pure and clean; they are pure of sins and clean of misdeeds. When a person passes away and leaves this world, he should also leave pure. But, since no one knows in advance when one will pass away, how can you purify yourself before leaving this world? The answer is, you can’t. But, there is a way to purify a person who passed away by performing a taharah.
Yom Kippur Afternoon Services
September 30, 2022
I belong to a Reform synagogue. On Yom Kippur, I always go to the afternoon service, which is led by laypeople. When my sister, Edith, was alive, she often came with me because we didn’t need tickets, as we did for the morning service. Over the years, I have become a member of the Religious Practices Committee. Several years ago, the Reform movement published new prayer books for Shabbat and then the high holidays. Our congregation has been using them ever since except for the afternoon Yom Kippur service.
October 23, 2019
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.
Did Your Mom Pray during the Holocaust?
November 13, 2018
“Did your mom pray during the Holocaust?” asked an 8th-grade student after one of my presentations at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. I was surprised hearing this question, and while I tried to compose my answer, I also tried to figure out what prompted her to ask it.
To Convert or Not to Convert? That Was the Question
November 1, 2017
My mother came from a very observant Orthodox Jewish family. Her grandfather was an Orthodox rabbi in a small town in Austria-Hungary (today Prešov, Slovakia). Her father graduated from a yeshiva in Pressburg (today Bratislava, Slovakia), but he never became a rabbi. Her family kept kosher—meaning they observed the very strict Jewish dietary laws—and she had a strong Jewish education.
Sense of Being Jewish
November 1, 2016
From my earliest memories, I have always had a sense of being Jewish. My father, who had grown up as an Orthodox Jew, made sure we observed all the Jewish traditions. My mother, who wanted to please him, kept a kosher home. She prepared all the traditional dishes for the Sabbath, and we celebrated all the Jewish holidays with great enthusiasm. My brother and I accompanied my father to the synagogue almost every Saturday. It was there that I learned that it was important to pray to God and that God liked it when the Jewish men worshipped him.
How Did the Holocaust Shape Me as a Jew?
November 1, 2015
I was born in Paris in 1938 to Jewish parents who had emigrated from Turkey in the 1920s, as they no longer felt secure in a new modern nationalist Turkey born from the ashes of the former Ottoman Empire. In Turkey, my parents had been educated in schools from the Alliance Israélite Universelle and were already perfectly fluent in French. At these schools they had received a Jewish education better than I ever received in France in the 1950s. There I only attended public schools. My Jewish education was reduced to bare minimum preparation for my bar mitzvah, which I quickly forgot, as we never went to synagogue afterwards.
To Save the World Entire
November 1, 2013
Why was man created alone? Is it not true that the creator could have created the whole of humanity? But man was created alone to teach you that whoever kills one life kills the world entire, and whoever saves one life saves the world entire.
—paraphrased from the Talmud