The passage below is written by me from the perspective of my grandmother, Barbara Farkas, a Holocaust Survivor:
One morning in March of 1944, armed German soldiers invaded my town of Oradea, Romania. Before I even heard any screams of fright, I could sense the terror brooding in the streets. My father’s grocery store was closed, and not a face could be seen outside. One night, my whole neighborhood was rounded up and forced into trains. We were like cattle, being deported to what I would later know to be Auschwitz.
On that cramped, putrid train car, all I could think of was one blazing fact. My parents had moved from the town of Beliu to Oradea, just so I could receive a better education. If we had not moved, we never would have been deported. The sentiment of guilt seethed through my mind.
As I arrived to the appalling camp, I could smell the rotten stench of dead bodies. As we waited in line, I clung to my mother’s soft hand, and my father’s wool jacket. His scent always calmed me. But this time, nothing could ease my fright.
A Nazi named Mendele eyed me up and down. I was only twenty years old- strong and healthy. I felt a rough hand push me to the left side, while my parents were ushered to the right. My eyes welled up, and my eyes met my mother’s for the last time.
I knew right then that my parents would be killed. I had never experienced death before. I now have learned that death is unavoidable. Whether one dies of old age, or by murder, there is nothing that can stop death. I had always thought it to be a natural occurrence, until I witnessed thousands die by the hand of another. Yes, death is supposed to happen. It is part of life. However, murder is in no way natural. It has caused me to fear death with the deepest sentiment. Because of this, I have gained an incredible will to survive.
The only thing that I could be in control of in those camps was my resolve, and my memories. One day, I was served my usual meager bowl of soup. I had been so starved, that I hastily drank the soup. By accident, a couple drops spilled on the ground. Of course, I was caught and punished. I was forced to kneel from dawn until noon holding heavy bricks above my head. From afar, I could hear the band playing “The Merry Widow.” I cried as I knelt, listening to that music. I remembered hearing it in the streets of my old neighborhood. Even though I couldn’t bare the sadness and physical pain, my memories and willpower forced me to make it through the day. I continued to last for days and weeks to come.
The time came when I heard the wonderful sound of helicopters above. “I am almost free!” I thought. It had been a full year, and the Swedish Red Cross liberated us. Mixed with my feeling of utter glee was a sentiment of solitude. I knew in my gut that my family was obliterated by those awful Nazis. I did not know where I would go, or whom I could find. I returned to Romania, and attempted to start over.
Since that time in my life, I have experienced some more pains, but some joys as well. I married a wonderful man, and bore my daughter, Alexandra. I was the most protective mother. I could not bare the thought of her suffering, like I did. We left Romania to escape the Communists, and moved to Israel. We loved Israel very much, but after the Six Day War, I knew we had to leave. I could not stand another war, let alone allow my daughter to experience more violence. We moved to Boston, where Alexandra married after some time. This was difficult for me, because I did not want to lose my family again. I understood that she would be near, but it was still painful. However, my two grandchildren were little blessings in my life. They reminded me that even though the world may seem wrong at times, there are always some miracles that can be found.
Though I had survived the most terrible experience, there was always a sense of melancholy within me. A part of me was lost, and left with the Germans. Some days, I needed to force myself to smile. I could never disregard the evil that I witnessed, even though I struggled everyday to forget.
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