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

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  • 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 warsinger

  • Another View of a Survivor

    The survivors who volunteer at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum were notified about a new project to help younger audiences relate to us and I thought it was a fine idea. We were told that members of the Museum’s marketing team had conceptualized a new video series. They envisioned a casual video conversation with us, focusing on parts of our life beyond the Holocaust, “something you are passionate about—a hobby, a moment in your career, or events or experiences that show a more complete view of who you are as people, as individuals.” 

    Tags:   echoes of memory, volume 12susan warsinger

  • 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 warsinger

  • Rosh Hashanah This Year

    In previous years, my daughters and their husbands, my grandchildren, and other family members celebrated the beginning of the new Jewish year with a great feast. I took it for granted that we would always have our Jewishness in common. This year, the Jewish year of 5778, another new member has been added to our family. Her name is Sehar, a beautiful and intelligent young woman who recently married my oldest grandchild, Matthew. She is Indian and Muslim. I have learned some Indian and Muslim customs since meeting her family, especially during the preparations for the wedding.

    Tags:   echoes of memory, volume 11susan warsinger

  • Pocahontas, Arkansas

    It had been a long time since the Speakers Bureau of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum requested that I give a presentation in a far-off place, so when I received an e-mail asking me to go to Pocahontas, Arkansas, I was delighted. The trip was sponsored by Black River Technical College, and I was scheduled to give three lectures to 800 people at each session. It was to be a four-day trip: two days to get there and back, and two days for the speeches themselves. Museum staff member Emily Potter accompanied me on the trip.

    Tags:   echoes of memory, volume 10susan warsinger

  • Children Far Away

    Last week I had a wonderful opportunity to peer back deep into my memory when Emily Potter asked me to engage in a videoconference with 35 eighth- and tenth-grade students at Costa Rica’s La Paz School. I felt sure that I was going to be an interesting object in the eyes of those students while recording the conference, sitting in the room where our artistically boundless writers of Echoes of Memory meetings take place, at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

    Tags:   susan warsingerechoes of memory, volume 10

  • Ashburn Colored School

    When Diane Saltzman, the Museum’s director of Survivor and Council Stewardship, sent me an e-mail to ask me to speak at a program in Ashburn, Virginia, at a schoolhouse that had been defaced with graffiti, I had already heard and read about the historic one-room Ashburn Colored School. The phrase “white power,” swastikas, profanities, and crude drawings were spray painted in black, blue, and red on the outside of the wooden walls and windows. Diane informed me that I was to speak for only a short time with other invited presenters. I accepted the invitation because I wanted to be part of that historic occasion, and I wanted to do something to confront hatred. I did not know where the school was located and what was being or would be done with it.

    Tags:   echoes of memory, volume 10susan warsinger

  • Sense of Being Jewish

    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.

    Tags:   susan warsingerechoes of memory, volume 9

  • Feeling Good

    Another year of observing the Days of Remembrance at our United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has just passed. The revered event that took place was not much different from other years except that I was there with my two brothers most of the time. On the morning of the first day of the DOR, my brother Joe and I attended a program on our Museum’s collection as well as the dedication of a display about the Shapell Collections, Conservation, and Research Center that is currently under construction. It was held in the Hall of Witness of the Museum. Other Holocaust survivors and I joined the Shapell family in a ribbon-cutting ceremony for this new center to be built. I was feeling good because my brother was in the audience and sharing this experience with me.

    Tags:   susan warsingerechoes of memory, volume 9

  • Bringing the Lessons Home

    When the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum first opened in 1993, there were no tours of the Permanent Exhibit. After my fellow survivor, Susan Berlin, and I came to volunteer at the Museum we wanted to conduct tours for the many high school students who visited the Permanent Exhibition. We met with three staff people in the Education Department and they gave workshops on how to conduct educational tours of the Permanent Exhibition for a few volunteers and some staff. This was a significant beginning for many tours to follow.

    Tags:   susan warsingerechoes of memory, volume 9

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