This is a short poignant story but it has so much in it.A story of hope,survival,death, bereavement and most of all a story that tells us that life is a very precious thing. It is also a stark reminder that we have to remain vigilant to ensure that evil doesn’t win.
It is the story of Sonia K, and her sister, Jewish Holocaust survivors. I don’t know the sister’s name nor do I know Sonia’s full last name but this is really irrelevant.
Sonia and her family lived in Warsaw in 1943, when the Nazis found them in hiding. Warsaw Ghetto was burning at the time, they were given a choice either to leave or die in the Ghetto. Although they knew where they would be going to, they decided to take that option. Sonia K said about it “Life is a very precious thing, and you hang onto it as much and as long as you can.”
Her parents and brother were murdered.
When Sonia and her sister arrived in Auschwitz, their heads were shaved and their arms were tattooed.
Those who had arrived were put in selection rows of 5. Sonia and her sister were in row 4. A Nazi passed by and called out” Who here is a shoemaker?” although Sonia who was 17 at the time and wasn’t a shoemaker, lifted her hand. She said about that that she wasn’t sure who lifted her hand, if it was God almighty our her parents who had died, she didn’t know. But anyway her hand was raised and she also prompted her sister to raise hers. The Nazi guard believed them.
They were then assigned to work in a so called ‘shoe commando’, where they were separating and taken apart the shoes of murdered people.
One morning while going to work, Sonia saw a train arrive from Hungary, heading straight to the gas chambers. One of the women on the train must have been picked up on her wedding for she was wearing her bridal gown.
People were told they were going to the showers but they were all gassed, including the young bride. It is an image that will stay with Sonia until the days she dies, she said on an interview on CNN.
While allied troops were approaching Auschwitz in January 1945, Sonia and her sister were send to other camps and then on a death march. Sonia barely survived the march, her sister and adopted sister had dragged Sonia along, Anyone who would stop on the death march would have been killed.
In April 1945 they were liberated by American troops. Sonia K is now a citizen in the US.What profoundly saddens me is the fact that a brave soul like Sonia has to witness ,the start of what easily can become a repeat of what she had to endure. on the news when racist bigots call out chants like “Jews will not replace us”
There is a significant difference between then and now. Now we don’t have an excuse to let this happen again because we have the luxury of hindsight.
Finishing up with a quote from Sonia “Silence is the first thing after hate that is dangerous, because if you are silent it is an approval of what is going on”
Many thanks to Norman Stone for pointing me to the story
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