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From the ADSIllinois President

On Holocaust Survivors– A personal perspective:

Many things come to mind when I review my awareness of my unique and often
troubling existence as one who identifies with the special place in history and the
complete awe, horror and discomfort one feels in being the next generation. These
thoughts were of horror and disgust at the human indecency that allowed such an
occurrence to swallow up the “wonderful modern European Civilization” of the 20th
I find that I am filled with a sense of guilt; the uncomfortable kind that overwhelms
various other emotions or feelings of laziness as well as a sense of relaxation that one
can sometimes lull ones self into a false sense of security. I ask myself "Why did this
happen? What lulled us as a community and a people to allow this type of thing to
come upon us? How could we let hatred and outright violence against us build up
to such a 'feverish pitch'?".

As a child, my father always had very loud and disturbing nightmares. One could hear
his screaming in the next apartment building, never mind in my room. If I had any sense
of humor, I would have wondered what my Mother was doing to him, but no, I did not allow
myself to joke or comment about the terrible sounds of torture that were being heard. I
asked my father what he endured during his time spent in the concentration camp and
learned of him losing his mother and father. He was very close with his parents and had
lived at home with them, when the Nazis stormed through Belgium and took their home,
possessions, family, hopes and dreams. My grandfather that I had never known, had come
early in his life to the United States and really loved it. He spoke to my father about the
hope of going there because he felt it was a strong country with jobs and protections for
workers in Unions. But he never had a chance to return there.

Yes, I know, my thoughts are jumping all over the place! Maybe that is one of the problems
associated with being a Descendent (just joking). My father felt he was one of the lucky
ones. He was brought to Buchenwald, where his brother was assigned to cook the soup
that they called food for the camp. His brother made sure that he got some of the bottom
of the huge barrel so he could get some better food ingredients. Meanwhile, my father was
assigned to slave labor and carried bricks on his back as ordered. He was also
commanded to carry dead bodies at times. His father (my grandfather), who was in the
camp with him was taken away, when he became weakened and my father never saw him
again. It was assumed that he was taken to his death. My father’s mother was never seen
again since being placed in the Concentration camp.

My mother seemed to be no less lucky. As a young teen she she claimed that it helped
her to be small, because she was able to sneak out a back door after lying down and
holding her breath while everyone else succumbed to the gas that would have ended
her life. I couldn’t understand how that could happen but she insisted that the first time
she simply got away with it and the next time, one guard noticed but seemed to look away
as she again escaped. My mother had lost one sister and her surviving parent, her mother.
She had eight siblings and had a tough life before that in a small farming area of
Czechoslovakia. Her father died before the war started and she lost one sibling before the
war and one during, in addition to her mother. When I think about these stories, I realize
I'll never have the pleasure of knowing a grandparent or of being “spoiled” by that
type of love.

I always craved the attention that I perceived could come from a grandparent who had
pride in their grandson. I adopted my cousin’s grandmother, "Bobbie" (I thought that was
her name), who I never knew or asked, how she survived or did not get captured in the war.
I learned most of my Yiddish from her, since she spoke only that and Hungarian. I ate plenty
of her good cooking while she was still able, during my visits. I was never courageous
enough to bring up the subject of the holocaust to Bobbie, my parents or others. I usually
waited until they mentioned it and rarely had follow up questions. I felt shame and fear
of showing my upset and felt that none of those emotions were needed in our current lives.

The shame does not seem to go away. The fear comes back with the sense of increased
hatred and fake innocuous stories that are being produced and spread like a disease
across the world from extremists. Shame, fear and a legacy of not quite being comfortable
is just some of the feelings that I get out of being a descendent. This describes why I joined
this group (ADSIllinois) and look to maintain the memory of the Shoah, (Holocaust of Jews
in WWII), and to help to defend Jews from this sort of genocidal evil that threatens to engulf
the world again. We must be diligent and always working to help Israel, have good relations
with those outside our environment and promote positive image of Jews as well. It is
important to preserve the memories of those that perished in this despicable act by hateful
people and must not be allowed to propagate onto humanity again. I cannot do this alone.
This is something we must contribute our talents and strengths to together and connect
with others that will give us the goal of peace and tranquility that we desire!

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