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OpryLeigh's avatar

Do you have any relatives or know anyone who had first hand experience of the Holocaust?

Asked by OpryLeigh (25265points) July 2nd, 2009

Yesterday I went to the Holocaust Exhibition at the Imperial War museum in London. I recommend it to anyone who is able to get themselves to Lonon.

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19 Answers

wildpotato's avatar

My grandpa was 17, living in Berlin with his family when things started getting really creepy. Luckily they got out in time and went to China. He was part of a group called the Shanghai Jews, and they had their own ghetto and school system in Shanghai and everything. My grandpa drove a rice truck during the war. Later, they got to California over the Pacific.

janbb's avatar

Yes, I was on the board of the Center for Holocaust Studies at my college for many years and got to know a number of survivors there and heard their stories. They have a Speaker’s Bureau of survivors who give talks to school and other groups and the Center also presents programs and films on the Holocaust, bias and genocide issues. My Dad served in the U.S. Army in WW II and was in Europe.

sap82's avatar

My bestfriends grandfather died in a deathcamp.

aprilsimnel's avatar

One of my old bosses hid out in the mountains of Czechoslovakia until near the end of the war. Then his family trekked to Italy somehow, and went on to the US. Along the way, the mother changed the family’s surname to protect everyone. Of his relatives, only my old boss (who was a boy), his mom, a younger brother and a younger sister made it out. The rest of the family (including his father) were caught and sent to, IIRC, Dachau.

I also worked on a documentary where I met a very old survivor, Mariam Cohen, and her son, Kurt Fuchel, who had been part of the der Kindertransport that got some kids rescued and placed in England. They didn’t see each other for almost 60 years, until he found her in a nursing home in New Jersey. He assumed that she had died. The son was teaching at Princeton, and he discovered that his mother had changed her name, immigrated to the US, remarried and had had more kids.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

Back when I worked at a print shop about ten years ago, a little old Polish lady came in to get photocopies of important historical documents. She spoke no English, but the old man with her did. I got to talking to him, and he told me that she had worked for the Nazis as a child in a forced labor camp. I of course photocopied everything for them, and without being too nosy, saw that they were from that time in history. She had a copy of her Nazi issued worker booklet, which she allowed me to make photocopies of for my studies of the WW2 era. Of course the copies were of the outside and inside of the book, not any of the personal information inside. It was all written in German anyway.

That was the closest I’ve ever come to someone from that era, if you don’t count the numerous WW2 veterans I’ve met over the years. Not all of them talk about their experiences, but those that do have some pretty eye opening stories. One vet told me he was there when they freed a camp, but wouldn’t go into any detail about the pathetic souls they found there or which camp it was. Can’t say as I blamed him, as the pictures I’ve seen in books are pretty horrific. I can’t imagine how it would be to personally witness such an atrocity.

basp's avatar

A very close friend was smuggled out of Nazis territory as a child and stowed away on a ship to come to the united states. During his journey he had to claim he was not Jewish and he always regretted lying about that but it was for the purpose of survival.

loser's avatar

I have a friend who has to live with numbers tattooed on her arm. She won’t talk about it, though. Too painful. I have no idea what the poor thing went through.

Darwin's avatar

I have had several friends who had numbers tatooed on their arms. The parents of another friend of mine met in Auschwitz, and, after having lost all of their respective families, eventually married and emigrated to the US. Most refused to talk about it.

A large part of my German relatives disappeared into various camps and did not come back out.

I also had an art teacher in South America who was German and vociferously claimed to have never been a Nazi. His car was blown up with him in it a few years later, supposedly by Israelis (but no one is talking).

skfinkel's avatar

I have a relative who just did a family tree that goes back many generations. I had not realized how many of the people in my family, distant cousins, had perished in concentration camps in WWII—whole families died. Of course, some made it out, and some, like my grandfather, came to the US from Russia at the turn of the century, when he was a boy of 13—he was escaping pograms in Russia, but it was before Hitler. I also learned that I was related to Jonathan Safron Foer who wrote a fantastic book about his going back to find his own history (which now I realize is mine as well) called Everything Is Illuminated. I highly recommend this book—very funny and smart and illuminating (no pun intended) book.

shilolo's avatar

My father was born in Russia because his family were refugees from Poland. When they went back to Poland after the war, there were other people living in their house. They eventually emigrated to Israel, where they were (relatively) safer. Whole segments of my extended family were murdered, and I had several older family members who bore concentration camp tattoos.

janbb's avatar

My folks were both born in the States and like skfinkel, their parents had come from Russia to escape pogroms in the early 20th century. But I do remember a picture my mother had of family in Europe and her saying they all were killed during the Holocaust. There was also a farmer on a neighboring farm to ours with concentration camp numbers tattooed on his arm.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

Several. An ex of mine and his two brothers are the only living male relatives from his father’s family. His father survived the German occupation of their Russian town by being hidden in a hole under a room in the house. A sick infant brother starved to death because the mother chose to give her milk and what little food there was to him (the toddler) who was still relatively healthy. The father, uncles, an older brother and male cousins were taken away and never seen again, reportedly shot and buried in some forests. my ex’s father was let out of the burrow very little time because the women were so afraid of neighbors finding out and reporting them.

RedPowerLady's avatar

A bit off topic but there have been several great movies that have come out lately highlighting the pain the of the holocaust. I saw one recentally that was a bit cliche but I really enjoyed it: boy in the striped pajamas. It is also a bit brutal though. It’ll get to ya.

OpryLeigh's avatar

@RedPowerLady The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is a beautiful film and I would also recommend the book if you like reading. Of course there is also Schindlers List which is a stunning film too.

filmfann's avatar

I went to school with Fred, from kindergarten to HS graduation. He was adopted, and his mom had been in a concentration camp. She had the numbers on her arm.
People who deny this shit happened ought to be shot.

YARNLADY's avatar

Yes, my In-Laws lost many relatives.

gooch's avatar

My former secratarys grandmother had the tatooed numbers from being in a German camp. She died a few years ago she had Alzheimers therefore I never heard any of her stories.

kerryyylynn's avatar

A woman came to talk to my school about it. She was so sad, but incredibly strong and oddly positive.

bea2345's avatar

During my first Christmas in the UK (1974), I stayed with one of my mother’s friends, an Austrian Jew who had been a student activist before and during the Anschluss. Her family were able to get travel documents for her and her brother to leave Austria, just before the pogroms began in earnest. Except for her brother, she had no living relatives. She was very kind to me, and told me stories of her student days in Vienna. One I particularly remember: on the night the Nazis were celebrating the success of the Anschluss, she was in the lavatory destroying anti Nazi handouts by flushing them down the toilet, and weeping unrestrainedly as she did so. Like a great many Jews, she ended up in the UK, which at the time was accepting refugees by the thousands. I was privileged to meet some of her friends. These mostly comprised refugees, many from Austria and almost all Jews. One of them told me, in answer to a query about her family, “They died in Auschwitz.”

There are a few refugees from the Holocaust in Trinidad: their children are pretty much assimilated into West Indian life.

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