Yom Hashoa – Holocaust Remembrance Day

Yesterday we had an important one hour assembly for the Holocaust Remembrance Day. It was the first assembly where high school, middle school, and elementary school (only 5th grade) were all together. We watched a movie that was put together of the 10th, 11th, and 12th graders that went to Poland. This a trip in which all high schoolers (except ninth grade) go on to look at the remains from the Holocaust. The movie was so powerful. One Catholic girl on the trip said, “Once Jews marched on a trail leading into the woods. In rows of 5 they walked. Each one walking up to a ditch. Then, a Nazi soldier shot them down – one by one – and each one after a shot fell into that ditch. And here we march on the same path into the woods. Going to the destination they went before they died. But at the ditch we prayed and sang. I watched my fellow classmates walk with an Israeli flag covered over their shoulders as we marched.” There were just so many horrors and hearts broken as the children went to the Poland Trip. They saw how close a normal pretty town was right next to crematoriums. They found ashes and also piles and piles of shoes and bags that were left behind while the Jews were taken.

 

Then, the next part of the program the high school boys choir sang 6 Million in Hebrew. Of what I remember 6 million Jews were killed, 1 million kids, 2 million Catholics/Christians, and 1 million others.

 

A guest speaker came to talk to us, and it turns out she was a holocaust survivor. She said to us – a very optimistic woman – told us she didn’t want to fill our hearts and minds with bad things and memories but to tell us about few special people that were braved and had saved her life as well as others. She told us two stories, which I will try to explain as best I can.

She lived at a convent as a young girl. She was 5 at the time of the Holocaust. Her parents had wanted to go to Israel before the war, but her parents were able to get a shop and business going, so they didn’t. Her mother always told her pretend you don’t know or understand anything because she spoke both Hebrew and Polish. She said that it was better to be stupid than to say something stupid. She had also died her daughters hair from black to blond and told her to pretend your tired all the time so that no one would see her black Jewish eyes. Her father was killed while she was at the religious boarding school, but she did not mention what had happened to her mother. When her hair started to grow out and her black roots started to show, the nuns thought it was part of the devil and they started to pray for her. There was a young priest at the church and he came up to her and said in Hebrew, “You don’t have to worry. I will protect you.” She then asked, without knowing what else to do, “How do you know?” The priest said that in her sleep she started to cry out Abba, Emma (Father, Mother), Ani rotza lalechet ha bieta (I want to come back home). She never spoke in her sleep again, after hearing the news. Sometimes, though she would wake up in the middle of the night and see that the priest was beside her bed. She felt safe. The priest helped her pass her classes at school too, since she was finally able to get out of the mindset that “she doesn’t know or understand anything” even if it was simple. One day though, a Nazi soldier took the priest away, and she never saw him again. It turns out he had helped other Jews and disguised them as Christians. The soldier had asked who she was and the head mistress told him that she was an orphan that they had taken in out of charity. At this point in the war, since it was the beginning, they were only looking for people that were resisting, so for that time, she was safe.

The second story was when she was 7 years old. All the Polish people had to evacuate where she was living. So, all the Polish, including her convent had to march to the train station. The head mistresses daughter (16 years old) loved her like a sister. She begged her mom to let her come with them and that they would take care of her. The 16 year old had a boyfriend that had gotten shot on his side. He told her (the holocaust survivor) that they were both in trouble and that he would take care of her. The head mistress gave her two heavy bags to carry on the march. She was afraid if she let go of the bags, since they were so heavy, that the mistress would leave her behind. The town was being destroyed, so if she were to be left behind, it would mean certain death. The 16 year old girls boy friend saw her struggling and told her to let go of the bags and leave them behind. She did what she was told. She was so exhausted and worn out from the march, that she could barely walk. The boyfriend picked her up and they started walking. In the middle of the journey, she felt that her skirt was wet. She looked down, and saw that it was red. She realized that him carrying her, had made his wound open again and was bleeding. She begged him to let her down, but he said, “shh, no. Just put your head on my shoulder.” By the time they got to the train station, he put her down next to him, and he laid down with the support from a wall. There was a soldier nearby. Then, the boyfriend had a pistol that fell out of his pocket. The Nazi soldier saw him and the gun, and took him. They went around a corner and she heard 2 shots. She never saw him again.

To this day, the holocaust survivor can not look at boots because her height at the time of the holocaust only looked at boots and guns that the soldiers carried. She told us that we are the future, and we are here to make it better. She is telling us her story, for us, to lead a better life. I think this is really something, but I wish I could have heard more. In May, my Hebrew class (for the first time) is going to work with another middle school class that are doing a section on “living history” to talk and interview five holocaust survivors. So, I will definitely take notes and write their stories for all of you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

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