April 29, 2012

Maine Holocaust survivor tells her story in 'Against All Odds'

By TOM ATWELL / Special to the Maine Sunday Telegram

(Continued from page 1)

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click image to enlarge

They hear about bullying all the time, and this (persecution of the Jews by the Nazis) is bullying come full circle. 

Q: Is there one main lesson your readers can take from your experiences?

A: Not really. The deniers, that is the worst thing. There are people who say it never happened, and that hurts.

If you want to survive, the one asset you have to have is optimism. If you have negative feelings, you get depressed, and that is very dangerous.

The hatred of the time is what brings everything on. I always say you can live next door to people and you don't have to like them, but you don't hate them. The good part about America is freedom, but some people abuse the freedom and their the interpretation is sometimes wrong.

When I speak to high school children, they are sometimes surprised to learn that they are the same age I was when I was sent to a concentration camp. My sister Suse was 8 years old when they sent her away to England, and they say, "How could you do that?" but it was what had to be done. 

Q: I have Jewish friends who won't buy Volkswagens, Mercedes or any German products. Do you hold a grudge against the Germans, and do you buy German products?

A: At first, I did not want to go back to Germany, but then they formed some groups and rebuilt the synagogue in Worms. And when they unveiled the plaque with the list of all the people who died, they had me and my mother unveil it, because we were the only ones (Jewish people) from Worms who survived.

But then the Finegolds (daughter Ruth's family) talked to me and wanted to go, and we went back to the places where I grew up. I showed the places to them, and I felt that I at least had a purpose.

I did not go to the camps. My sister begged me to, but I said I could not do it, because now it is a park. It isn't anything like it was. In the beginning, we did not buy German products, but

When I went back to Worms, I had an uneasy feeling when I met people of a certain age, wondering what they were doing back then. But they also are dying out now. 

Q: Is there anything else you would like to talk about?

A: One thing: On July 13, 1977, there was a blackout in New York. We owned this business -- our business and a camera shop next door. And they looted the camera shop, took everything, and tried to burn it. It reminded me of Kristallnacht. It hit me very hard. Why should this happen to me in America? 

Q: When and where is this book going to be available for people to read?

A: Right now, it is at The Book Review in Falmouth (at the Falmouth Shopping Center on Route 100), and you can get it at the Maine Authors Publishing website (maineauthorspublishing.com).

We will go on Amazon and other sites when we can set up PayPal to pay the Holocaust & Human Rights Center directly. 

Tom Atwell is a freelance writer in Cape Elizabeth. He can be contacted at 791-6362 or at:

tomatwell@me.com

 

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