The Conspiracy

How the Holocaust Crept Into My Soul

I grew up learning about the horrors of the Holocaust. Since I can remember there have been school trips to Holocaust museums and independent events where speakers told their stories. It has been touched on in almost every history class I have ever taken. Additionally, my grandpa is a survivor, and I have recorded his story for my future children. I considered myself immune, seasoned enough to listen to anyone’s Holocaust experiences without being too affected.

That’s why I was surprised when I became emotionally overwhelmed recently while hearing by the Holocaust tales of ladies my mother interviewed. My mother works for the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago, in communications. For the annual campaign video, my mother interviewed four Holocaust survivors and three social work staff from Jewish Child and Family Services in our bright pink living room. My job was to entertain, take coats, offer snacks, and keep everyone quiet during the one-on-one interviews.

The first two ladies were charming and easy to listen to. They told of their plights calmly and comfortably, constantly remarking on how helpful JUF has been to them throughout their difficult lives in Skokie.

The second pair of ladies was harder to listen to. Neither seemed to have had the chance to properly tell their stories before, so their pain seemed more raw. One lady had been sick throughout the war; she had to sneak into hospitals for treatment since Jews were prohibited from hospitals. She also ate rotten fruit filled with worms when there was nothing else to eat. To this day, she throws out spotted fruit due to the onslaught of memories. But even that danced past my ears.

I can barely remember the details of the final lady’s story: all I can harken is the passion and despair in her voice. Why?! She asked. Why did no one help? What did we do to deserve this? Why? How did G-d let this happen to us? These are questions that have been asked many times before. I have asked them too. But the pain in her voice, the outrage, the heartbreak was so real, I started to cry. I wasn’t even in the same room as the speaker. I was curled up on the couch in the corner of another room. But her words echoed through my house and shook me to the core.

I used to get annoyed by Holocaust stories. I felt that I had heard my share and that we as a people and as a society would do well to just move on. But this experience made me realize how important it is that these stories get told; that we can’t move on until we listen to these stories. And I am grateful for the programs JUF provides for these people. They have clearly provided comfort and healing for these people and with programs like that, we as a people can finally move on.

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