In recognition of National Holocaust Remembrance Week (in the US), I am looking back at the stories told by some individuals I interviewed when I was in college. Karen was one of the individuals who shared her story with me. I interviewed her in 2002 about her Holocaust experience.
Karen was born in July of 1924. A Jewish child in Germany she had memories of the rise of the Nazi party. Her family escaped Germany to France, and then to America seemingly one-step ahead. Karen noted that hers is “not a Holocaust story, but it’s certainly tied very intimately to the events that led to the Holocaust.” Her life was clearly shaped by the Holocaust, the rise of the Nazi Party influencing her parents decisions to move. She remembered going with her mother to vote and learning about the parties. Sometime between the spring of 1932 and the summer of 1933 she was staying in Kassel with her grandfather. “One night we were woken up by this banging on the door and there was this couple with blankets around themselves — and this was in the winter — and they had been dragged out of their beds and beaten and they were telling us about some people who had also been dragged out, and beaten, and salt and pepper was poured into their wounds. And this was way, way, way, way, way early. People really didn’t believe it.”
Based on her early experiences, Karen felt very strongly that “what happens in elections, and out there in the political world, affects your life. It’s part of your life…. When we ask ourselves ‘why,’ I think this is one of the reasons why I’m so committed to social action. Prevention, prevention, prevention.”