Start of Main Content

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

Clear filter for "jewish communities before the war"
Page 1 of 3
  • The Uilenburgersjoel

    The Uilenburgersjoel (Uilenburger Synagogue) was built in Amsterdam in 1735, in the center of the Jewish quarter. Regular services were held there from 1735 until 1942. The Jewish quarter was a lively area in the center of Amsterdam where people spoke Dutch with some Yiddish and Hebrew woven into the language. Next to the sjoel was a large square, het Waterlooplein. A market was held at the square every day but Saturday. The women got together to share their family news; they gossiped and bought their food for the day. The sjoel was in the center of it all.

  • Mukačevo: My Hometown

    I imagine that my grandchildren’s generation, and certainly that of my great-grandchildren, will not be able to picture a life without even the simplest of the luxuries we have now. I am certain that when people I meet hear that I was raised in Mukačevo, they imagine it to be a shtetl, with little huts or little houses, without running water or electricity, and with mud-filled streets, with people pushing carts or horses pulling small or large carriages. Mukačevo doesn’t look like this now, nor did it look like this in the 1930s.

  • If Only I Had Pictures

    I lost my family in the Holocaust. I also lost the images of my past. Everything was destroyed: my home, my material possessions, including nearly every picture. Most importantly, none of my relatives survived. I was one of two children who survived the Holocaust from my town of Dokszyce in eastern Poland, now Belarus. The town’s Jewish population was about 3,000 before the Holocaust. Only a dozen or so survived.

  • Bridges

    The cabinet in my dining room was filled with tchotchkes. All those trinkets were scattered on four shelves in no particular order and, therefore, it was exceptionally difficult to find anything. In order to retrieve a particular dish that I wanted to use, I needed to take out numerous items that all ended up cluttered on the floor. On one occasion, I decided it was a perfect time to throw out some of these objects that had been slumbering there for many years.

  • Trip to Drohobycz

    My “pilgrimage” to Drohobycz started a few days after the Holocaust Days of Remembrance and my own First Person interview and after my talks to high schools and synagogues about the Holocaust. That work turned out to be a kind of preparation for the exhausting, moving, and emotional trip that awaited me. Ania and I left Washington, DC, on May 9 for the beautiful landscapes of the Italian lakes where we spent the following eight days with my sister, Irena, and her husband, Manes. The overwhelming feeling of peace and serenity I felt there did not bring back the dark memories of the Holocaust.

  • Days of Remembrance in Rymanow

    In August 2008, I took an unexpected journey into my family’s past. It began with an e-mail forwarded to me by the hospital where I worked. It was labeled “possible spam” and came from a Michal Lorenc of Rymanow, Galicia, Poland, and it read as follows: “I have very urgent information for Dr. Alfred Münzer. In his mother’s hometown Rymanow in Poland is organized the special celebration to honor the people who died in Holocaust. Could you give my e-mail to Mr. Münzer? I’ll send him more information. Sincerely, Michal Lorenc.”

  • Our Poor Shtetl is Burning!

    After the Allied armies liberated Belgium and it was safe once again for us to go out in public, my parents started attending social events here and there in Brussels. Perhaps because they didn’t want to leave me home alone—I was around eight or nine years old—I often went with them to cafés where American musicians played jazz, balls where my parents danced, nightclubs where comedians told slightly off-color jokes in Yiddish, a movie theatre where we saw the movie The Dybbuk, and other social events attended by Jews who, like us, had lived through the war in hiding and who had not seen each other in years. Also in attendance were some of the very few Jews who had survived deportation to the Nazi camps. At the time, the word Holocaust hadn’t yet been coined. In Yiddish, people said: “Wir hoben dus mit gemacht” (We went through that).

  • Going Back

    My long-term memory is full of blanks. I had hoped that revisiting the places of my childhood would help bring back some of the memories, but this has not happened. Until age seven, I lived in Zaleszczyki, Poland (present-day Ukraine), a small historic vacation town on the frontier with Romania. The town was very picturesque and almost completely surrounded by the Dniestr river, which served as the natural border between Poland and Romania.