Walking with a Holocaust Survivor

By | July 29, 2019

[July 29, 2019] She spoke in a clear but hushed voice. Gloria was born a Polish Jew in the early 1930s. This past weekend, I was invited by a friend to a small township historical society event to see war reenactors from the Revolutionary War to the Vietnam War. It was a good thing I attended the event. Little did I know that I would meet a Holocaust survivor.

Several veterans were invited to sit on the main stage, and we were each asked to say a few words to the many young people in attendance. They called it “living history.” By luck, I sat next to a woman about my age who was the daughter of a Holocaust survivor. Her mother, Gloria, was sitting directly in front of me. Gloria was a young girl when the Soviet Union invaded and occupied eastern Poland in 1939; placing thousands in Gulags.

As Gloria and I were walking away from the stage, she told me a personal story. The small children of the Auschwitz, Poland Gulag (later a German concentration camp) were required to learn Russian; a difficult language, she told the audience. Her words tumbled out of the story of an older boy in her class that struggled to learn. All the kids made fun of him. But since she was Jewish, and raised by her parents to help people, she assisted the young Ukrainian boy to pass the class.

A year or so later, just as the German Army entered to take over the Russian gulag, she and several hundred others escaped. About 60 escapees were hiding in a barn several miles from the new German-run Concentration camp when guards from the facility went looking for escapees. A German soldier came to the barn with a German Sheppard dog to track them down.

When the soldier opened the door, he saw Gloria and the others but remembered that she had helped him learn the Russian language and had treated him kindly. He “looked” around at the 60 escapees and yelled to his platoon that there were no people in the barn. Despite escaping the gulag and not getting caught at the time, she was later rounded up and sent to a different Concentration camp (she spoke so low, I couldn’t make out the name).

All her family was killed in various concentration camps during the war. As she told it, she survived only by luck. At the end of the war, the U.S. Army entered her camp and were “so kind and helpful.” They gave them food and cigarettes. She remembered the soldiers and how happy she was of the camp’s liberation.

Years after the war, she moved to the United States and married another Holocaust survivor and raised a family together. They promised each other that they would “never forget.” Gloria told me that no matter what, she will “never forget” what the Russians and Germans did to her people. And neither will any of us there who heard her talk.

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Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

29 thoughts on “Walking with a Holocaust Survivor

  1. Walter H.

    Your chance meeting was a godsend. Most of us never get the chance to meet them or even talk to a Holocaust survivor.

  2. Martin Shiell

    The results of Social Engineering is fascism, totalitarianism, and ultimately gulags and concentration camps. Socialists of today, be forewarned.

    1. Max Foster

      Progressives of today say they will get it right this time and we will achieve paradise without the problems of the 20th century. How wonderful it will all be, they say when everyone is the same and treated with kindness and respect. Of course, that is what the Germans and Russians said too.

    2. Janna Faulkner

      Why is it that so many people believe in an ideology that has historically killed so many people and continues to incite violence? Is there some human condition that we refuse to accept the end results that have been so clearly outlined in our recent past?

  3. Willie Shrumburger

    Growing up I had a neighbor two doors down who was a survivor from the Nazi Concentration Camps. Occasionally the kids from my neighborhood block would go to his house and listen to him talk about those times. We sat in awe. It was incomprehensible that such things like the camps could exist. We learned to be better kids just from hearing him talk and us ask questions. He never tired of telling us of his family and friends who died there.

    1. Mr. T.J. Asper

      This is something I try to educate my students on. Most don’t listen but I hope the message sinks in to NEVER FORGET, else we will repeat history.

      1. Kenny Foster

        Thank you Mr. Asper. You give me confidence our school system is actually doing a good job. Keep up the great work with kids. We need more teachers (and coaches) like you.

    1. Walter H.

      I was there last year. A very moving experience and one that I will always remember as long as I live.

      1. Len Jakosky

        Me too, Walter. I visited with my family with our kids. My job as a parent is to instill the most important lessons in life. This is one of the top ten.

      2. Jerome Smith

        It’s on my list when I visit DC next month.

  4. Fred Weber

    The story of Gloria nearly moved me to tears. What a fantastic story. I hope she continues to pass down the idea that no one should ever forget about what the Nazis and Russians did to her and her family. Our problem today is that we don’t teach the Holocaust; too many fantasy stories about it being fiction.

  5. JT Patterson

    Like Greg wrote below, all I can say is WOW. Powerful.

    1. Otto Z. Zuckermann

      Like our WW2 veterans who are passing away, so are the Holocaust Survivors. If you are fortunate enough to run across one, please tell them that we will ‘never forget.’

  6. Army Captain

    Thanks for sharing her story with us.

    1. The Kid 1945

      Yes, I’m also sure there is much more to her childhood stories that depict the horror of the Russians (which we tend to forget about and their gulags) and the Germans. Let’s not forget that the communist Russians were often MUCH WORSE than the Nazis. Anyone who thinks otherwise is ignorant of history.

    2. Dale Paul Fox

      Agreed and this is why “social engineering” by our benevolent (/sarcasm) politicians is so dangerous. Both the communists and Nazis were social experiments gone wrong. Liberals look the other way whenever you bring up that about 100 million died in that experiment.

  7. Drew Dill

    I’m sure you were first surprised to see ‘Gloria’ there and then to hear her story must have been breath taking.

    1. Wilson Cox

      There are many of these stories but they are fading fast. A living museum of their voices is what is needed. Now, just to get people to listen to their stories.

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