Nancy Apfelroth: A Story on the Horrors of the Holocaust, From a Women's Perspective

May 16, 2009

September 4th was a day in Poland that I would never forget. Sitting at home during the year 1941, surrounded by dearest mother, loving father, and cheerful siblings (one brother and one sister), I never imagined a life away from them, though a few short weeks would soon enlighten that feeling to me. The hours passed as quickly as any other day when the soldiers arrived. Nazis, all with a cold look of hatred possessed within their deep blue eyes. The Germans and Hungarians gathered all of the 28,000 Jews, located within my hometown, and at the age of thirteen, I began to work, side by side with my family. As the day ended, a single token of paper was handed to father, as we traveled to the bakery in order to receive our daily ration of bread.

One evening, as the sun illuminated a husky red, we began our journey to my grandmother’s home, in order to pay her a visit. The comforting silence was broken with the high-pitched whistle of a black bullet. Ducking in fear, my parents praying to God, bullets rained past our heads as we stealthily crept towards grandmother’s home, until at long last, we had reached her sanctuary. My family often believed that our safety was due to the acts of God himself, while I had no belief in God.

Regrettably, that was just a prologue of the horrors yet to come. The Hungarians delighted in torturing us lightly, and at once, they decreed the worst law. The leading officer spoke with a voice of command; “All men are to join the Army at a minimum of one month.” As father left, I stared after the tall proud figure, believing it was the last I would see of him. Thankfully, at the end of thirty days, he once again appeared at our doorstep.

As the Nazi’s treatment grew worse, we were punished. One day, I saw how truly devastating our hopes of survival were. Walking with my dear family towards our home, I stopped in surprise. The building in which I had grew up was missing what it had once contained. My father’s dearly prized truck was now being filled with Hungarians, holding rifles. Another mile down the road, I arrived at my mother’s teashop. The front sign had been ripped, and the shop was dark, being redone for the use of the undeniable Germans, while I thought back to the very last scone I had eaten.

Walking on with my family, the Nazi’s finally stopped us at a large soccer stadium. From there, the commanding officer of the troops ordered us to travel home, and come back dressed in our best clothes and jewelry, carrying multiple prized possessions. As we arrived again to the stadium, a sight met us. A giant fire was placed in the center of the field, and burning in the center were bibles, every bible found in my hometown. In the distance, one could see flames atop our house of prayer, otherwise known as the synagogue.

Following this, the worst began. Standing in our line, our valuables were stripped away from us, in addition to our jewelry. One by one the soldiers walked by us saying the words “Left” and “Right”. Casually before me, the German stated, “Right”. Moving onward he declared both my parents as “Left”. In a wordless hell I continued onwards, ripped away from my parents, and traveled towards my first camp.

Crowded with twelve Jews per room, with the hard floor supporting us when we slept, the first camp did not provide many accommodations. When the first workday began, every prisoner was handed a little cup in order to hold soup. A strict rule was that talking and singing were forbidden during the workday, so our spirits dampened without any comforting words to one another. Our routine was to awake, eat breakfast, work, eat dinner, and retire to bed. Showers were not allowed, and the terrible food did nothing to help our appetite. Waking before the sun awoke, we slept after the sun set.

One day has stayed in my memories, and will continue to haunt me for days to come. As I worked in a factory line, closely supervised by a German guard, he one day asked a question which shocked me. The question he asked was for me to elope with him.

A fury of thought flashed through my mind. I would rather die a thousand deaths than live with you! My thoughts were what I wished to say, but as the Germans could not be thwarted, I politely answered, “No thank you.” Oh, but how relentlessly he tried to persuade me.

“1048, you’re not even a Jew!” This was the phrase many officers used in order to convince me to run away with the one German. The man who supposedly loved me continuously looked at me linen uniform in order to address me as a number.

Vigorously I would shake my head and state, “I will die a Jew.”

As the months passed many changes occurred. One such change included arriving at a third camp. The difference from other camps was that many American Prisoners of War kept us company, as we cowered from the harsh Lithuanian officers. Also, my dear cousin joined me in this camp. Before the American Prisoners of War escaped, they promised that we would be liberated, beginning World War II.

As the Germans began to lose the war, the guards became harsher, increasing our workload. Finally, in the year 1945, our saviors arrived in the forms of Russians. We were liberated, and once again returned to Poland. My frozen feet took a total of five years to heal, as the two cousins I lived with gently nursed me back to health.

In the year 1983 I decided to begin a new life, by gaining citizenship in the United States of America. My move followed my marriage to my husband, after encountering him in Munich. Moving to Aurora in order to work, I received a call from Washington. Many were interested in the Holocaust, and greatly wanted to be spoken to by a survivor. Packing my bags, I agreed and left Aurora in order to speak.

Many questions involved my thoughts as to why I survived the Holocaust. Reasons for this include the fact that my camps were small, and not to well known. Secondly, I had first contained vengeance in my heart to destroy all the Nazi’s soon after liberation, until I was hit with a wave of memories from the years prior to the Holocaust, and I did not wish to once again start this attack. To speak up in one’s defense is a single way to prevent this calamity, and I encourage everyone to stick up for one another, as we are all together and the same.

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