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EDITORIAL: Lessons to be Learned From Three Holocaust Survivors

Erika Sauerhoff, Mr. & Mrs. Alan Farkas, Herschel Chomsky, and Nathan Kasdan remember those who perished in the Holocaust. —photo by Paul W. Wang

When I was growing up I remember watching the saga of “Roots” on television and the horrors of slavery but I have never met anyone that was a former slave. I also have never heard anyone deny that slavery ever took place which is why I am puzzled when people deny that the Holocaust ever occurred. I remember watching the miniseries “Holocaust” and seeing actual footage of dead emaciated bodies being thrown into mass graves. What an insult it is, especially to the survivors of today when people still insist that the Holocaust was a hoax.

It was a humbling experience to be in the presence of such strong and courageous individuals as Alan Farkas, Erika Sauerhoff and Nathan Kasdan.

April 19 was Holocaust Remembrance Day which was celebrated at a ceremony held at the City Hall Council Chambers.

The three individuals mentioned above told their stories of survival and how they lost loved ones during that horrendous time. At the conclusion of the ceremony I was told by some of the Mayor’s staff that one young woman was so moved by the stories that were told by the speakers that she broke down in tears.

Mrs. Erika Sauerhoff had to pause several times to gain her composure when she remembered the horrors of her encampment at such a young age.

Mr. Farkas recalled how he was sent to a Concentration Camp at the age of 14 along with his sisters who were 9 and 7 years old and his mother who was 36. Since he was big for his age he said he lied and told those at the camp he was 17. He remembers all who were imprisoned there were very religious. What a stark contrast to the guards who had no concern for the prisoners. He recalled that when anyone died in the barracks the bodies stayed there along with those who were still alive. Out of 5000 prisoners at the Concentration Camp only 200 to 300 people survived.

“In March 1945 the camp was bombed and I was able to escape with 2 others. Friends he had in the past now became my enemies which was the only way for them to protect themselves.” In 1948 Mr. Farkas joined a Jewish organization to go to Israel. Finally in 1962 he was able to obtain a visa to go to Paris and then from there he arrived in America with only $1 in his pocket.

Mr. Farkas’ parting words was, “Be good to your neighbors, and I hope you remember me and my story.”

Erika Sauerhoff (born in Paris – her father and grandfather perished in camp) was a very young child when she was sent away to camp. She remembered her dad going into the army in 1939 but he had no idea what would happen to him. “Jewish people were under curfew and eventually they were sent to a camp outside of Paris in buses.”

“1.5 million children perished. They had to wear ID badges – those six years and older. Prisoners were given only 350 calories a day to eat and children were separated from parents. No food or medical attention was given to them.”

Upon being liberated she was first placed with a Christian family. She grew up resenting her mother for abandoning her not realizing that it was for her own protection.

In 1945 she was reunited with my family in Israel but she had an estranged relationship with her mother.

“I created my own world to protect myself.” In 1969 Sauerhoff went to Israel and met her future husband. Fighting through tears Saurerhoff continued with her story. “Because of what I went through as a child growing up and being separated from my own mother it enabled me to understand how much it means to be a good mother. I have a daughter and now I’m also a grandma.”

Nathan Kasdan kept his story short because he said he could go on for weeks. “But I have to credit my dear aunt for my survival because when they came to capture us she pushed me under a couch. I remember hiding in the forest and being reunited with my father. I was liberated in 1944 and I was in Germany for 5 years. I worked in the City of Perth Amboy for over 20 years. I raised my family here although I no longer live here.”

My last thoughts:

I encourage anyone who gets a chance to hear Holocaust survivors speak to do so. Although it is very sad to hear the stories of the atrocities they saw and lived through. We must never forget that it happened. For to do so could make it happen again and that is something that should never have happened in the first place.



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