By Erika Eckstut
One day in 1941, four men came to our house. They took my family and me to the outskirts of the town, where all the Jews from the town where gathered. We were about 500 Jews. The saddest part was that a lot of the killers were our neighbors. Up to that time, we had a very good life. The first ones that they shot were the Rabbi and his two sons. They continued to shoot only men. People were crying and praying. I turned to my father and asked him why I had to die. My father did not have an answer for me. He said, please don’t cry. When they ran out of ammunition, they took us to the courthouse until they could get more bullets.
As my father stood there, a man offered to take us back to our house. When we arrived at the house, it had been ransacked. The next day they came for my father. My sister went with him. On the way they met a man in a gray suit. He said that my father did not belong there and sent my father and sister back home.
The same afternoon the police chief came to us and helped us get away from that little town. We had several valuable possessions including silverware. We gave all of it to the police chief. He took us at night part way to the town of Czernowitz. When we arrived at the town we were forced to go into the town ghetto.
I now go as a speaker to all kinds of groups of people—from schools and the military, adults and children.
I was called to speak to eight year olds at the Children’s Museum. At first I did not want to speak because I did not know how I could talk to young children about the Holocaust. But I did go, and I told them about my happy childhood. I could not talk about my Holocaust experiences to them.
But then I thought of the movie The Hundred and One Dalmatians. I asked if any of the children had seen the movie. They all indicated by raised arms that they had. The five teachers had frowns on their faces. They expected me to talk about the Holocaust, not a movie. I asked the children to tell me the moral of the story. They did not answer. I said to them that we would go through story together and find the moral. And so I said: “There was a Mama dog and a Papa dog. They had nice little puppies. There was a mean lady who wanted a fur coat and was willing to kill all the puppies to get her coat.” And I asked the children what happened. They answered, “The puppies were saved.” I said that was true.
And then I asked them who ran with Mama dog and Papa dog when they ran in the street. I answered, a white dog, a black dog, a bird, a mouse, and so on. They all ran, small and big, to help Mama and Papa dog. But when my Mama and Papa ran in the street with my sister and me, no one ran with us. The moral of the story is, if you see anybody who needs help, don’t worry if he is white or black or yellow, or a Jew or a Muslim or a Christian. If you are a good human being, the first thing you must do is help those in need.
I would like to leave you with the thought of how important it is to love and never to hate.
©2002, Erika Eckstut. The text, images, and audio and video clips on this website are available for limited non-commercial, educational, and personal use only, or for fair use as defined in the United States copyright laws.