There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t think about the Holocaust.
Yet, it happened so long ago. My grandparents who were Holocaust survivors passed away last year. When it’s cold out I constantly feel how lucky I am to have warm boots and a warm place to sleep. A jacket, socks. Even underwear. What did people in the camps and ghettos do without these things? I feel I can visualize the Holocaust on so many counts and in so many different places. From the stories I have heard, the books I’ve read and the movie’s I’ve watched. But have you ever thought about not changing your underwear for days, months, years? Not even having any? Or working in the freezing cold without socks? Socks were the least of their problems…
I always think about the constant fear that the people in World War II must have lived in. And everyone’s fear was different. It wasn’t only the Jews. 11 million people, only 6 million were Jews. Killed, murdered, dead. Constant suffering.
I feel that the Holocaust is so engrained in my everyday life. I watch what I buy, what I spend, how I act. I appreciate and value all that my grandparents and their families died and suffered for. How will we teach our children what happened? How will they feel what I have been blessed to feel? To live as a Jew, as a person with pride that we had overcome Hitler?
My grandparents survived the Holocaust. Most of their family did not. Their history, their love, their life story – I will never truly know. It was rudely interrupted with death, destruction and baseless hatred. My mother always told me that my grandparents saved everything. I saw them save plastic cutlery over and over till it couldn’t be used anymore. My Zaide often awarded me with yummy but outdated chocolates. My grandparent’s living room seemed to be left untouched. Appreciating their living space and nit wanting to ruin it…I guess. The fear of not having, of starving and being without everyday needs transferred on throughout the rest of their lives. This is a fear that I have — to a lesser degree. I am beyond thankful for it – this fear has taught me the value of… every thing.
As War and the Holocaust showed us, material things only went so far until they meant nothing to the Nazi regime. What mattered, literally, was your family and lineage. If you were 1/8th Jewish, you were a Jew. Who you made alliances with, and who was kind enough to turn a deaf ear to Nazi propaganda.
My Bubbe was saved by Nuns and Quakers. My Zaide, by his strength and skill in construction. Both were saved by their families, as they were sent away early on in the war in attempt to save them. But I will never be able to see what went on daily. What my Bubbe and Zaide were like as children, as teens and as prisoners of War.
Their past is buried deep with the ashes of the Holocaust. Not a day goes by where I don’t try and imagine from where I came.