I am a Holocaust survivor.
I am dedicated to public education via the Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Naples, where I am a board member.
I am a frequent speaker there and in our schools.
Please let me address something we too often overlook — the memory of the beautiful and innocent children of the Holocaust.
Some 1.5 million children were struck down without pity. They were murdered simply for who they were — Jews. The young ones, who were silenced forever, were the hope and future of our people. We will never know the extent of human potential that was destroyed — the scientists, the writers, the musicians — gifted talent burned to ashes by German and Austrian Nazi hate and all its dedicated and blind collaborators.
Those children grew old overnight. They quickly learned how to conceal pain and how to cover up fear. More importantly, with natural compassion they comforted those around them.
How can we forget these martyred children? Their lives, their laughter, their gentle love, their strength and bravery in face of certain death are still part of our daily lives.
Their cries ring across the decades, and we hear them. They are always in our thoughts, in our sleepless nights, in our pained hearts.
During the deportations to the extermination camps our Gentile neighbors went about their daily lives, insensitive and indifferent to the tragedy in progress. Some were even happy and applauding our suffering and misfortune. I survived by luck, by faith or by accident, in order to be a witness to the Nazi crimes and to keep alive the memory of the children, my loved ones and my people.
The Nazis disgraced themselves and the human race when they forced 120 people into each boxcar and closed the doors and the little windows. The Nazis robbed the people of their valuable possessions and beat and humiliated them. With their guns, whips and dogs, they created hysteria. Without sanitary facilities, air, water and food, and with standing room only, the boxcar became a torture chamber for the people while riding to the extermination camps. The gas chamber was a relief from the suffering.
The Nazis behaved worse than beasts in the wild. Beasts kill only when they are hungry. The more people the Nazis murdered, the hungrier they got.
There was no closure when the war ended. The Nazi criminals escaped justice. The killers — Einsatz commandos — disappeared into thin air with the help of many Nazi collaborators and some governments and institutions. They murdered over 6 million good and pious people and destroyed the Jewish culture in Europe that had existed for 2,000 years. The Nazis should be condemned forever by all civilized people.
My prayers were not answered, my dreams not fulfilled. After the war ended and the Nazis were defeated, I hoped to be the judge, jury and executioner of the Nazi murderers known to me.
Liberation by the Allied armies restored many survivors to life, and my sincere gratitude goes to the men and women, soldiers who at the risk of their own lives liberated starving people in death camps. It was there where soldiers destined for battle became healers, saving those who were at the brink of death and reviving human skeletons who had given up on life and lost faith in humanity. The American flag is far more than a piece of cloth. It is a symbol of freedom and hope.
Our history would have been very different if the state of Israel had existed 60 years ago. Many survivors became part of this great country that adopted us, and we are grateful Americans. This is the land of the free with opportunities and equal rights for everybody. Although we are now in the winter of our lives, we look toward the future because we believe that by sharing our experiences and by bearing witness and educating others, there is hope of protecting new generations of men, women and children who might be abandoned, forgotten, persecuted and murdered.
We remember not for ourselves, but for others and those yet unborn. Knowing that the impossible is possible, there is the chance that history can be repeated unless we are mindful. The task of preserving the Holocaust memory will soon pass to our children and grandchildren; to high school and middle school teachers; to custodians of Holocaust centers; and most importantly to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. But monuments of stone and well-written textbooks are not enough. Personal dedication to remembrance and to telling and retelling the true stories of the brutality of the Holocaust with their lessons for humanity must become a mission for all humankind for all generations to come.
In these great institutions of learning, we see many symbols of the ideals that America represents — liberty, equality and justice. It was the collective rejection of such principles by some nations that made the Holocaust possible. Today let us, young and old alike, promise to keep an ever-watchful eye for those who deny and defy these precious principles of human conduct.
Let us remember.
America gives us the freedom to be what we are, and preserving our unique heritage contributes to the strength and the diversity of this wonderful country.
Suffering is supposed to purify the soul, but too much suffering kills the body. I can't forget and will not forgive the Nazi killers for what they did to me, my loved ones and my people. It is a personal loss and a national tragedy, a wound that will not close until death itself arrives to heal it over.
The dead are alive in my heart. In their death, my loved ones commanded me to live.
I am proud to be Jewish — proud of my heritage and ancestors who gave the world the Ten Commandments. My mission is history and Holocaust education.