ALEXANDER KIMEL - HOLOCAUST UNDERSTANDING & PREVENTION
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STORIES OF HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS
All Alone - Carl's StoryIn September of 1942, I was living in a French children's home. I was scared, lonely and full of apprehension. One day the Director called me in and handed me a postcard. When I recognized the handwriting of my older brother, I felt a wave of excitement. A letter from my brother. He is alive, and I am not alone in this world. Maybe he will be joining me? How am I going to receive him? What wonderful news!
My brother wrote me that he received permission from his French orphanage, to pay a short visit to our parents, interned in a concentration camp in the South of France. Reading those words I was envious. How I wanted to be in his place! How I wanted to see my father! How I wanted to embrace my mother!
Unfortunately, my brother's visit was not that short. He had been betrayed, and on Sept. 11, 1942, two weeks after his arrival, my brother and my parents were shipped to Auschwitz. The Germans had destroyed another Jewish family. The postcard was the last link with my loved ones. I remained alone. A nine- year old boy compelled to face life alone. All alone.
My Own Mother - Adele's Story"Are you my mother?" I asked the stranger that tried to hug and kiss me. In 1945, at the age of nine, I was a suspicious and mistrustful survivor of three concentration camps. When the woman came closer, I saw in her eyes the inexplicable mixture of sadness, fear and love. I recognized those eyes. They belonged to my mother. Suddenly, I was flooded with memories of my sad childhood.
I remembered how, after a daily roll call, we boarded the train to Auschwitz. We were saved when the German soldier could not find our names on the list and asked us to leave the train.
I remembered, how the Germans scheduled the resettlement of the men, and my father cut a hole in the ceiling of the barrack and hid for weeks in confined space, on top of the beams.
I remembered how with trembling hands my mother buttoned my coat and pushed me out of the camp, for my escape to Switzerland. I was six years old at that time. I remembered and cried. But those were tears of joy. I felt like a child again. A normal child with my own mother.
My First Job - Eva's StoryI was eleven years old, when I got my first job. I became a full time nanny to a blind peasant baby. This job saved my life; it saved me from starvation. In 1942, after my father was killed by the Nazis, my mother, my sister and I escaped from the Ludwipol ghetto in Poland, and hid in the forest. We lived in an underground dugout with an open fire like cave dwellers. The difference was that the cave dwellers were free to hunt animals. We, were the hunted animals? We, were the prey.
We survived the autumn, picking berries and stealing potatoes from the fields. In the winter, when everything was covered with snow, there was nothing to pick, nothing to eat. Hot water from melted snow was our staple food. To survive, we walked from village to village, begging for food.
It was then that I got my job. I worked 24 hours a day, and in return I received a bowl of soup, a few boiled potatoes and a warm place to sleep, at the hearth. The soup I ate myself, the potatoes I saved for my mother and my baby sister, who were hiding in the forest. Compared to life in the cold, smoke filled pit, life in this peasant hovel with its flickering kerosene lamp, dirt floor and swarms of flies, was luxury, sheer luxury.
I Saw the Angel of Death - Alex's StoryI saw the Angel of Death, I spoke with the Angel of Death. . . and I survived. It happened in 1942, in the Ghetto of Rohatyn, in Poland. For Jews in the Ghetto, the SS men with their black uniforms, with their black skulls, were the Angels of Death. Once they saw you, you were finished, you were gone.
I was on the night watch, when I noticed a suspicious movement at the border of the ghetto. I went to investigate, and found myself staring into the eyes of the Angel of Death. I was caught in the net. Trying to extricate myself, I started to talk to the SS man about German planes. He liked the subject, and before long we were discussing the two best German fighter planes, the Messerschmidt and the Stuka.
After a few minutes, I told the SS man that I had to go. Without waiting for his permission, I turned around and walked away. I simply walked away. I walked slowly to corner of the street, waiting to hear the shot, waiting to feel the sting. It never came. When I turned the corner, I ran as fast as I could. I wanted to warn my family, to warn my neighbors. Minutes later, the first shots were fired, and the killing started.
My Lost Childhood - Rose' StoryI really did not have a childhood. I was only six years old when my parents, anticipating the liquidation of the Ghetto, gave me away to a Polish peasant. I found myself in a strange, rough world, a peasant's hut with a clay dirt floor, a flickering kerosene lamp, and plenty of biting flees.
One morning I was given a rod and asked to lead Krasula, their only cow, to the pasture. I never saw a cow before and I was scared. I cautiously walked behind the cow, when suddenly there was a commotion on the dirt road. The cow turned around, looked at me menacingly . . . and moved in my direction.
I panicked. The towering mountain of flesh was coming closer and closer. I turned around and ran home. I tripped, fell and started to bleed.
A neighbor's wife picked me up, took me to my "aunt" and told her "This girl cries like a Jewish baby."
Despite my age, I sensed danger and immediately stopped crying. I never cried again. My childhood came to an end.
The Long March - Paul's StoryFebruary 1945, we were standing on the "Appeals Platz" shivering in the cold like leaves, when the Commandant of the camp announced that the camp is being liquidated and we marching out.
"They are going to shoot us," said my brother-in-law Henry, quietly.
Before long, the marching column was formed. Henry was moving with great difficulties. We were passing through German villages. The road was lined with farm hands. Some were daunting us, some threw us food.
In the afternoon, Henry stopped. "I can't walk any more. Good Bye Paul. It's time to part."
We sat down at the roadside. Luckily, a wagon with supplies passed by and I put Henry on the wagon.
I remained alone. "So close to the end and so far to survival." I looked around. The column was passing through a dense forest. I darted into the underbrush and squat down. As the column was passing, I slowly inched away from the road. Soon darkness prevailed. I got up. I was a free man. Free to starve, free to freeze to death, free to run away from the Germans.