A Holocaust Survivor’s Story


My best friend growing up, Ellen Jacob, had parents who had both been in the Holocaust. I knew Ellen was very close to her father. Every time I would see Mr. Nebel, he seemed kind, and I liked him.

I was really impressed with some of the things Ellen had at her house. When I would ask her about something, she would say, “Oh my Dad made that.” Even as a silly teenager who wasn’t very materialistic,  the furniture made an impression on me. After watching this video, I realize where he first learned his craft.

Yom Kipper, an important holiday on the Jewish calendar, is coming this week. It’s about forgiveness. It’s a time to forgive others and yourself.

Mr. Nebel passed long ago, and this interview, edited by Ellen, is quite emotional.

You will have to click on the link to get to it. It is worth your time, especially if you don’t know much about the Holocaust. As the years pass, the Holocaust gets

A picture of Holocaust victims from Poland.

A picture of Holocaust victims from Poland.

further and further away from us. It is a cautionary tale everyone should know about.

https://www.facebook.com/ellen.b.jacob/videos/10205049160737263/

 

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Find out about surviving musicians of the Holocaust: Another Yom Hashoa story


On November 15, 1936, a statue of Felix Mendelssohn, a famous Jewish composer, was destroyed in Leipzig, Germany.This signaled the beginning of discrimination against Jewish musicians in Nazi Germany.

After that, the music of Jewish musicians and composers was no longer heard in concert halls and opera houses. However, the musicians weren’t completely silenced. They were forced to play music in ghettos, concentration camps, and for the Nazis’ special private events.

Imagine being forced to flawlessly play music while your enemies were marching your relatives and friends to the gas chambers. In Auschwitz alone, there were six orchestras.

Theresienstadt―Terezin was a camp in Czechoslovakia, where musicians, including children, were deported. Although they were starving and desolate, they could forget about their misery for seconds at a time ― while singing, playing instruments, performing, and composing music. The Nazis used these camps for propaganda purposes.

Representatives of the Danish Red Cross and the International Red Cross were fooled when they inspected the camp in 1944. Gardens had been planted, and the barracks renovated. They watched a children’s opera. They didn’t know that many of the residents had been deported to Auschwitz to be killed.

Although the Holocaust ended years ago, unbelievably, there are still a handful of these musicians still alive.These survivors are being documented by a notable Israeli composer, Dr. Nurit Jugend.

She’s composed over thirty works, and orchestras all over the world have played her musical compositions. This includes the Haifa Symphony Orchestra, and the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra under Zubin Mehta.

She is a lecturer at Stanford University and all over the world. Not only is she asking the musicians about their lives, but she is reuniting some of them after years of separation. She has also interviewed their children and grandchildren. She wants to document their stories before they are gone.

Recently I got the opportunity to speak with Dr. Nurit Jugend about this project. She was very forthcoming about what she’s learned from the participants, and why it is so important to get this project completed. What follows are some excerpts from our interview:

Q.What motivated a busy composer to make a film about the Holocaust?

A. My initial research about music during the Holocaust led me to the survivors and their stories. I immediately knew that I had to capture them on film before it was too late, and this opened the door to documentary film making.

Q. What did you want to find out when you started this project?

A. I knew that works had been composed during this period of time in the ghettos and the camps. I wondered what kind of music was being composed. How had it sounded? How did people under such circumstances such as sickness and death survive? How did they find it in themselves?

Q. What impressed you most about the survivors that you’ve met?

A. I was impressed with how they found some joy from music during the Holocaust as they were forced to play for the Nazis. I expected these people to reject music because it was forced from them. I was really surprised that none of the people I interviewed lost their love, passion or need for music.

Quite the opposite, they believe it saved their lives. It had an emotional meaning. These people are full of hope, able to look at life and see the beauty and the joy

Q .Can you tell me something about your experiences with the survivors?

A. One of the survivors Alex Tamir, who lives in Jerusalem, did contribute feelings of particular intimacy and deep excitement due, to his unique creativity of the song “Ponar” (shtilar shtilar) when he was 11 years old in ghetto Vilna. …A beautiful, quite difficult and melancholic song which became the hymn and song of hope and spiritual resistance among Jews in the ghettos and the Jewish brigade. It spread from camp to camp and became very well-known, ….I was very moved to learn that the person who wrote this song is still alive and meeting with him in person was one of the most memorable days I’ve spent in my life at his home in Jerusalem.

Q.How have some of the survivor’s used their experience from the Holocaust in a positive way?

A. Chaim plays the accordion, talks about his experiences, and goes to high schools and plays them the music he played during that period of time. Greta played one of the leading roles in an opera at Terezin when she was a child. She talks to children and tells them what it was like to experience the Holocaust as a child. Anita, a cellist, toured Europe, especially in Germany. She told about her experience as a musician in Auschwitz. They used music as a means to educate the world about the Holocaust. I do interview their children and grandchildren. Survivors do talk about music making in the family. I believe that making music in these families is a way to communicate about their experience. Many of the survivors insisted on teaching their children the music they played during the Holocaust.

Q. What do you want to accomplish with this documentary?

A. I want to raise questions. I want to look at the Holocaust through a different perspective. I want to talk about music making and what role that had in the concentration camps and ghettos. I want the film to come from a more uplifting and positive place. For these musicians, music was able to provide physical need and emotional escape. It saved their lives.

The film’s mission is to educate future generations about the Holocaust and strive for more tolerance and acceptance among people worldwide. Their stories have not all been recorded yet. We are running out of time. Soon, they will all be gone. I want to find them, identify them, make sure they’re still capable of telling their stories.

To find out more about this project, look at the website: http://www.theyplayedfortheirlives.com. You can donate money to help this project.

It is a special way to commemorate all the musicians who died during the Holocaust, especially during this month of April, the month of Yom Hashoa, when we remember the Holocaust victims.

In honor of Yom Hashoa, a story of survival and triumph


Sundown marks the beginning of Yom HaShoah (Ho...

Sundown marks the beginning of Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Memorial Day) in Israel as flags are at half-mast. Français : Drapeaux en berne le soir de Yom HaShoah (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yom Hashoa is a day where we commemorate Holocaust survivors. It usually occurs around April.

Here the story of a woman, Fran, who went through the Holocaust, but didn’t let it defeat her.

Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Memorial Day, has a special meaning for a vibrant woman. Her childhood was spent hiding from the Nazis during WWII.

Today, Fran leads a fulfilling life. This busy wife, mother, and grandmother has a busy career in sales.  In addition, she finds time to do volunteer work.

Fran remembers living in France during World War II. She lived with her parents, and sister, Gloria, in a two bedroom apartment. “I remember the apartment. My mother was always amazed at how much I could remember, but they were not good memories,” said Fran.

When Fran was a small child, there was a knock at their door in the middle of the night.  She remembers her father being taken away by French citizens sympathetic to the Nazis. She never saw him again. Many years later, she discovered that he died in Auschwitz, a German Concentration Camp.

At first, the men were the only ones taken away. No one believed that people would arrest and kill women and children too.

Fran’s mother hoped that they could continue living in their home. Several days after her father was taken, they returned to the apartment. “It was padlocked. All our possessions were gone,”  said Fran.

The two sisters, and her mother moved in with a Jewish friend, Berthe, who lived on the other side of Paris with her son, Armand.

Fortunately, there were non-Jewish  people who were willing to risk their lives for them.  The landlady of an apartment building distracted some soldiers when the family was hiding in a closet.  A neighbor pretended the children were his own, so they wouldn’t be taken away by Nazis.

Fran remembers her mother reassuring them. “She never wanted us to be frightened,” said Fran.

Soon, things became so dangerous that Fran’s mother hid in the forest with others. The girls were placed in non-Jewish homes in the French countryside. Fran remembers her mother trying to see the girls at night. Sometimes, she would give the foster families a little money so the girls could have more food to eat. “We sometimes lived on one or two pieces of bread a day,” Fran recalled.

As a result of poor living conditions,  Fran contracted childhood tuberculosis. She stayed in a TB sanitarium run by Catholic nuns. “The nuns were wonderful to me,” Fran said. Consequently, Fran adopted Catholicism into her life.

The war wasn’t officially  over for Fran until the family was reunited, and moved back to their two room apartment.

Fran wanted to attend church, and her mother would say to her, “Go ahead because wherever you go, God will hear you. Pray that your father comes back… Someday you will be a Jew again.”

Unfortunately, her mother became ill, and died. Fran was devastated.

When Fran was eleven and her sister twelve, the girls came to America by boat. “The struggle didn’t end when we landed in America,” said Fran. She was shuttled between relatives and given away for adoption. The hardest obstacle she faced was being separated from her beloved sister.

After many years of struggle, Fran found happiness and stability with her husband and their four children. They have six grandchildren.

Her mother’s prophecy came true—Fran found her way back to Judaism.

There is much more to this story, and Fran tells it when she speaks to schools and organizations about the Holocaust.

The only tangible reminders she has of her early life are some photographs.

Fran still has a close relationship with her sister.  Although Fran’s life has been tumultuous, she is a happy person.

“ Tragedy becomes a part of you, but you can choose to be positive about life,” Fran explained.