Issues of Power and Powerlessness

Freda p.12

Why is it important that you share your story? Oh, it's very important. It's very important that everyone should know about all of these things. Even now, even as we are sitting here, I'm sure you know there are Holocaust deniers. And when my generation dies it will be a battle for the historians to be constantly fighting to keep this story alive. And it's important for people who are not threatened by holocausts to know that this can happen to anybody. It can happen just because you're white and you have blue eyes, because maybe another race has become more powerful. So if this is part of the human condition it has to be told. And maybe in some way that story will have some impact to change the human consciousness. All of the stories of Genocide have to be told and everyone should know them.

Karl p. 1

That's my grade school classroom, in the years 1931 to 1932, and I am right here at this corner. Now one other thing that I'd like to point out on this picture is this. You see, after the Nazis came to power, I was pretty much isolated. I had to sit in the last row of chairs in the room by myself, and the other kids didn't much communicate with me or interact with me. They were all members of the Hitler Youth. I became quite isolated. They made fun of me obviously as a Jewish boy.

Karl p. 2

I remember a specific incident that happened, not in my school, but generally in the town. A little over two months after the Nazis came to power they instituted a Nationwide Boycott Day, on April 1st, 1933, where by orders of the Nazi government, all Jewish businesses were boycotted. That means they had the brown-shirted storm troopers standing outside all the Jewish businesses. They scrawled graffiti on the walls and on the show windows. My father had a retail shoe store and I still remember - I was eleven years old - I still remember the storm troopers standing in front of my father's store. The door was closed, the business was closed of course on that day, but I still remember the graffiti scrawled on the walls and on the windows. That was the first big indication, the first visible indication of the Nazi anti-Jewish policies, which I still remember.

Karl p. 4

My father had started his retail shoe business in 1920, two years before I was born. Of course he had a tough time. But I was too young to really know much about that. Despite all that and several years later he became very successful because he earned the trust of his clientele - the people who lived around there and people came and frequented his store - even after the Nazis came to power, and told everybody not to buy from Jews. What people did, they waited until Sunday morning and they came in through the back entrance to the store so that nobody would see them come in. My Dad would go to the store, on Sunday mornings, and they would buy shoes from him, on the sly, so that they wouldn't be seen.

Lucille p. 1

You mentioned that you were frightened the first day of school. Can you explain that further?

I was not frightened the first day, I was frightened right after Hitler came to power. Because the streets changed, the children changed, everything changed. I started school in 1930, so till '33 nothing happened. It was just a normal walk to school, normal people. And after Hitler came to power, it took less than 90 days. People would call us names and throw stones. And that was frightening.

Bill p. 3

I was beaten up quite a few times. We couldn't go to school anymore at one point so we went to a religious school in another town, we had to go by train to the next town, it was about forty five minutes by train. Of course then we had to wear the Star of David, you've seen that with the "J" on it, and that came to Holland later on. That's basically how I remember it.

I've tried for many years not to think about any of that because I have a good life here and I don't want my children to be affected, and some of you know my children. It was very hard for me not to talk about it and I never talked about it until they were about fourteen-fifteen years old because I've seen that some of my friends talked too much about it to their children and they messed up their kids. I was very lucky that I had the will power and whatever else it took not to discuss it with my children. I wanted them to be as normal as all American kids are and they are.

Max p. 11

What did you think of the Kapos?

You think good and you think bad, depends who they are. I mean, not all of them are bad. Not all of them are good. They are all in-between, like all people. They have power. Some of them use their power very poorly. Some of them use their power to ammeliorate the conditions that their fellow prisoners are in. It's not a hard fact that you can say "All Kapos are bastards," because some Kapos did help out. It depends what type of person that Kapo himself is and how he wants to remain a Kapo in the sense that he is responsible to the person in charge of the block, which is a fellow prisoner, because that's how they all get assigned these duties.

Lucille p. 10

When you were in the camps, the ghetto, and the cattle cars, did you get lonely at times?

Yes. I felt lonely and I was alone, because there was no family, there was nobody; there was no reminder from home. Not a piece of paper, not a piece of clothing. Nothing. But my friend from the ghetto was with me since the ghetto to liberation. Her mother died a couple of days afterward. We were fairly close and we both knew that we had no control, we had no way to change what was happening to us. And I don't think it mattered to us anymore.

Lucille p. 13

I can't tell you what hunger is like. It is not if you don't eat for a day. Or two days. It's if you don't eat for four years. It is something that is indescribable. What does it look like to look at a German with a drawn gun every day? I can't tell you that. There are no words for it. And the indignities we suffered, there are no words for those either, because we were not treated as human beings. We were treated as numbers, sometimes not even numbers.

Issues of Power and Powerlessness

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