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

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  • Food Desired and Food Denied

    I was seven years old in 1943 when my father disappeared. It was the fourth year of the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia, and he was not at home. I kept asking my mother about my father, and her standard reply became, “Don’t worry—he is on a business trip and will be back as soon as he can.” At first, I believed her, but I wanted a fuller explanation. I missed my father terribly, but my mother never told me that he was assigned to a hard labor battalion or, later in 1944, that he was sent to Theresienstadt. She could not tell me the truth.

  • Simple Things in Life

    Nineteen forty-six is when I came to the United States at 17 years old. I was lucky to have my sister Ellen living in the Bronx. She immigrated to the United States in 1939 just before World War II started. In fact, she couldn’t go to the city of Mukačevo to catch a train to Prague; it was already occupied by the Hungarians, who were allied with Nazi Germany. So, she had to go through mountain roads by horse and wagon to Slovakia, where she caught a train to Prague and picked up her visa for America. Two weeks later, Germany occupied the Czech lands, including Prague. She made it to Sweden and caught a ship to the United States.

  • My Community

    There are many places I have lived in since 1939, when I was thrown out of my house and first had to relocate. This was in Poland and my mother, sister, and I were trying desperately to survive under the Soviet, and then German occupation. My community at that time were the other frightened people who were also trying to find a safe place. After the Germans occupied us, being Jewish, we had only one destination and that was a concentration camp and death.

  • Thank You to the Holocaust Museum

    Thank you for the opportunity to speak today to you, my colleagues, teachers, leaders, historians, and all who work here. When I was asked to speak, I didn’t think I had anything to say, but then I realized that this is my golden opportunity to thank you all here at the Museum, who educated me, befriended me, and helped me to face the terrible experience I went through during World War II and learn how to remember and honor those millions we lost.

  • Jarosław, Living as Catholics

    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

  • The Most Difficult Decision of My Life

    The Holocaust deprived me of a father, sisters, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. I was fortunate, however, to be reunited with my mother when I was three and a half. She was one of 110,000 Jews deported from the Netherlands, and one of only 5,000 who returned. It was not until I was five or six that I became fully aware of the many missing members of my family. I boasted that I would make up for the loss and have 12 kids of my own, and I conjured up a whole loud brood around the dinner table. But that was before I learned the facts of life and that it takes more than the wish of one person to make a family. Slowly, throughout my childhood and teens, I came to understand that I was different and that marriage and having a family of my own wasn’t likely to be. 

  • Reinkensstraat 67

    Reinkenstraat 67 is the address in Den Haag of an ordinary two-story home next to a fish market. It is an ordinary house on an ordinary street lined with ordinary small businesses and cafés. The address is less than a mile from the house where I was born and that my family called home until October 1942 when our family was torn apart, and we were forced to go into hiding. Reinkenstraat 67 is an address that Hannah Arendt might have called “banal,” an ordinary address where evil and mass murder assumed a personal dimension. A house I needed to see with my own two eyes, not to achieve closure, but to feel and bear witness to the depths to which the human soul can descend.

  • Putting a Name to a Hidden Face

    Two of the most precious photographs I have of my family were taken at my brit milah, the ritual circumcision ceremony performed on all male Jewish babies when they are eight days old. Because I was born a year and a half into the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, my parents’ friends counseled against a circumcision. “It will identify him as being Jewish,” they said. My parents’ dilemma was solved when a pediatrician who examined me shortly after I was born told my father that I needed “a minor operation, called a circumcision.” My father then reminded him of our Jewish tradition and that I would be ritually circumcised. That is how family and friends came to gather in our home on December 1, 1941, to observe this first milestone of a Jewish life.