A holocaust survivor once said “Sometimes forgetting is simply being afraid to remember” and it is their prerogative to either remember or forget, for they have suffered enough.
However for us it is our duty to remember and to remind the generations that come after us of what happened during mankind’s darkest era.The picture above is of the Kazern Dossin Museum in Mechelen ,Belgium, The wall is an exhibition of pictures of Holocaust victims,but as you can see some spots just have shadow profiles rather than photographs. I presume these spaces are reserved for the unknown victims.
Below are a few letters of unknown victims and stories of survivors.
Tarnopol 7 April 1943.
Before I leave this world, I want to leave behind a few lines to you, my loved ones. When this letter reaches you one day, I myself will no longer be there, nor will any of us. Our end is drawing near. One feels it, one knows it. Just like the innocent, defenceless Jews already executed, we are all condemned to death. In the very near future it will be our turn, as the small remainder left over from the mass murders. There is no way for us to escape this horrible, ghastly death.
At the very beginning (in June 1941) some 5000 men were killed, among them my husband. After six weeks, following a five-day search between the corpses, I found his body…
Since that day, life has ceased for me. Not even in my girlish dreams could I once have wished for a better and more faithful companion. I was only granted two years and two months of happiness. And now? Tired from so much searching among the bodies, one was ‘glad’ to have found his as well; are there words in which to express these torments?
Tarnopol 26 April 1943.
I am still alive and I want to describe to you what happened from the 7th to this day. Now then, it is told that everyone’s turn comes up next. Galicia should be totally rid of Jews. After all, the ghetto is to be liquidated by the 1st of May. During the last days thousands have been shot. Meeting point was in our camp. Here the human victims are selected.
In Petrikow it looks like this: before the grave one is stripped naked, then forced to kneel down and wait for the shot. The victims stand in line and await their turn. Moreover, they have to sort the first, the executed, in their graves so that the space is used well and order prevails. The entire procedure does not take long. In half an hour the clothes of the executed return to the camp.
After the actions the Jewish council received a bill for 30,000 Zloty to pay for used bullets…
Why can we not cry, why can we not defend ourselves? How can one see so much innocent blood flow and say nothing, do nothing and await the same death oneself? We are compelled to go under so miserably, so pitilessly…
Do you think we want to end this way, die this way? No! No! Despite all these experiences. The urge for self-preservation has now often become greater, the will to live stronger, the closer death is. It is beyond comprehension.
(Pieter (Peter) Kohnstam with his mother and grandmother.)
“In the morning of July 6, 1942, Anne Frank came to say good-bye to us. The Franks were about to go into hiding in their secret annex. It was a sad and difficult parting for everyone. As things had deteriorated, Anne had come down every day to play with Pieter (age 6). Ruth (Pieter’s mother, age 31) and Clara (Ruth’s mother/Pieter’s grandmother) had become very fond of her. We hugged and kissed each other good-bye. Remembering that moment still brings tears to my eyes.
We watched from our living room window as the Franks left for their hiding place. It was raining outside. Margot had gone ahead earlier. Otto was dressed rather formally, as if he were going to work. He wore a dark suit and tie, an overcoat, and a hat. He was carrying a satchel under one arm and holding onto Edith with the other. Edith was also wearing a hat and carried a shopping bag. Anne had put on a scarf against the rain. She looked back one more time as we waved good-bye to them. We were crying and praying for their safety.”
Pieter Kohnstam survived the Holocaust and moved to the US in 1968
Lucie Adelsberger (12. April 1895 in Nürnberg − 2. November 1971 in New York)
Lucie Adelsberger describes the life of the children:
“Like the adults, the kids were only a mere bag of bones, without muscles or fat, and the thin skin like pergament scrubbed through and through beyond the hard bones of the skeleton and ignited itself to ulcerated wounds. Abscesses covered the underfed body from the top to the bottom and thus deprived it from the last rest of energy. The mouth was deeply gnawed by noma-abscesses, hollowed out the jaw and perforated the cheeks like cancer.Many decaying bodies were full of water because of the burning hunger, they swelled to shapeless bulks which could not move anymore. Diarrhoea, lasting for weeks, dissolved their irresistant bodies until nothing remained …..”.
Photo on the left taken in Poland circa 1940. Photo on right taken in Seattle 2004.
Fanny W. was born in south-western Poland. When she was 14, the Nazis sent her to a labor camp – a factory in Czechoslovakia. Fanny managed to survive 5 1/2 years in the camp. Her father, step-mother, brother, and sister were all killed.
Fanny Wald was born Frania Tabaczkiewcz on September 8, 1924 in southwestern Poland. She and her family lived in Bedzin, Poland, when the Nazis invaded Poland in September 1939.
And a little bit later the Germans marched in, I can feel it. I could hear the footsteps. I can hear their marching, of their march marching in and we were locked up in our houses. They were burning our synagogue. I could see the flames in front of me.
On the second day of the Nazi occupation, the local synagogue was burned and all Jewish males in the village over the age of 13 were removed from their homes and shot to death. Fanny tried to claim the bodies of her father and uncle, but local Poles would not allow her into the cemetery.
Fanny stayed home as much as possible to avoid being assaulted by the Nazis. Later in 1939, Fanny’s sister Simcha, did not show up at home. Fanny went to search for her and found that Simcha was being held in jail by the Nazis for not carrying a work card. She gave Simcha her own work card and switched places with her. Fanny, at age 14, was sent to a work camp/factory in Czechoslovakia called Oberalstadt. Simcha stayed in Bedzin.
I wasn’t human there. I was called by a number. I didn’t have a name. You had to know your number.
The women at Oberalstadt were not tattooed with numbers. Instead, they received numbered dog tags. These prisoners wore striped dresses and their heads were shaven only as a punishment. At the factory in Oberalstadt, workers spun flax into cloth or rope.
I was beaten quite often because I stick up for the sick ones. Sometimes a Czechoslovakian woman would tell me in the factory that she hid an apple or a piece of cake or a slice of bread for me to take it home. If I can, I smuggle it through to save the people in the sick room. An apple I cut up, oh boy, how many pieces I made out of it, and I fed them so they can live an hour more.
Fanny was caught trying to bring in food to the sick people. She was so badly beaten by a female SS guard that her kidney was injured. Another guard who was sympathetic to Fanny’s condition, obtained permission to take Fanny to a hospital in Prague by claiming that Fanny was only half Jewish. That guard saved Fanny’s life because she would have died without treatment due to the severity of her injury.
So you only survived on soup and bread. You had to swim to find a potato. By the time five years went by, you could go in with one shoe, two feet. We had to fight for five and one-half years to survive.
The camp of Oberalstadt was liberated in 1945 by English prisoners of war who were held in a nearby camp. The English POW’s entered Oberalstadt after Alled bombing scared off all the guards. Fanny had been in that camp for 5 ½ years.
My dad, he died at 32. He was killed, I should say.
My sister. Simcha Tabaczkiewcz. She might have been 15 or something like that…they sent her to Auschwitz.
My stepmother and my brother were gone already then. They were sent to Auschwitz. [My brother] was around 10, 11. Joseph…And they sent them, he died with her, but my sister died of typhus. People who survived told me. They were with her in the same room when she passed away. They couldn’t save her.
After liberation, Fanny returned to Bedzin where a home was set up for those returning to the town. Not much time passed before it became very dangerous to be known as a Jewish person in Bedzin, as well as other areas in Poland. Pogroms occurred in which returning Jewish people were attacked or murdered by the non-Jewish Polish townspeople. Fanny located a cousin who smuggled her into the American zone. She went to Bergen-Belsen, a concentration camp in Germany which the Americans used as a displaced persons camp. Then she met Ziegmund Wald. He was from Kielce, Poland, They married February 26, 1946 and immigrated to the United States in 1950. They have three children and many grandchildren.
Hatred has no room in our hearts or in our homes.
To a certain extend we as human beings have failed in stopping this from happening again. When we look at Rwanda,Sudan,Liberia, Srebenica and the current Syrian crisis. But it is still not too late to take a stand. We owe it to the future generations.