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

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  • 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.

  • Living Up to Our Values

    When I arrived in the United States after World War II at age 16, I was very anxious to move on with my life and not let my experiences during the Holocaust define me. I got a job in a grocery store and with help from my brother-in-law, I rented a room from a Hungarian family so I could be independent. That helped because I spoke Hungarian. My biggest problem was I did not speak or understand a word of English. So, I enrolled in night school. I was taught English, but also learned about US history and the Constitution. The teacher, Mrs. Durst, was a very nice, elderly lady who stressed how great American democracy is, that we are a country of laws. I knew about democracy because I grew up in Czechoslovakia and I went to Czech schools until the fourth grade. Then the war started and our school was closed.

  • Escaping from Evil

    Growing up in a rural area where many people were uneducated, I always thought that in the cities, especially in Western Europe, where people had access to higher education and city life, they would behave in a more civilized way than people where I lived. Growing up in a democratic country like Czechoslovakia, even as a seven- or eight-year-old kid, I felt very proud of our country, because we were treated as citizens. That does not mean that our neighbors who were “Russ” were not antisemitic; they were. However, we did coexist and got along.

  • Theodor Herzl: One Man’s Dream

    I recently attended the third annual gala of the Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces (FIDF), Washington, DC, chapter. It gave me great pride to see hundreds of people gathered there with the purpose of raising money for the IDF. I could not help thinking back to my childhood in the 1930s in Polana, Czechoslovakia. As Jews, we were content living in a democracy that gave us hope for a bright future. 

  • Remembering the Forgotten

    For the longest time I have remembered incidents that occurred during the Holocaust, about which very few have heard. This is a story I heard about after I returned from the concentration camp in 1945. Benzion and his family were from Plosk, a small village near Polana. Until 1939, it was known as Karpatska Russ in Czechoslovakia. 

  • Life in the DP Camps

    Life in the displaced persons camps gave people hope, for the first time, since they left their home. Almost every person there had lost parents, siblings, extended family, and many friends. As people started to feel better, they embraced life with zest. Though they had been dehumanized, sick and at death’s door, many started to marry. In the camps, they made wedding dresses from any material they could find, even parachutes.