There were over 9 million Jews living in Europe in 1938. Six million were killed during the holocaust 1.5 million were innocent children. Today less than 100,000 Holocaust survivors remain worldwide. Soon their voices will be silent. Today we have Irene Miller, one of the few living survivors of the Holocaust to share with us her story, thank you Mrs.Miller for joining us and let’s begin with the interview.
How old were you when the war was happening?
“I was 5 years old when the Nazi attacked Poland.”
Irene as a child
What types of speaking engagements have you given?
“I have spoken at schools, churches, to military and, at national conferences sharing my story, promoting tolerance and acceptance of diversity. When you visit my website, under events you will find a list of places I have spoken since the University of Michigan published my book "Into No Man's Land: A Historical Memoir. ”
What do you think of the current refugee movement in countries turning them away and, accepting them? Some countries going as far as comparing what is happening today in society to the holocaust and, what happened to the Jewish people during the holocaust.
“Six million Jews, among them 1.5 million of children were killed just because they were Jews, and Hitler didn't like Jews. Horrors like the holocaust don't just happen all at once, they start with rhetoric than some social injustices which people accept, and by increments grow to become monsters difficult to control. If the United States and other countries turn away, don't accept refugees, who are seeking safety, what is to happen to these people. All citizens in the US, other than native Americans, are here because their predecessors were allowed to come as immigrants or refugees."
What was your life like during the holocaust? Where did they have you move to, where did you go after?
“That is too brought a question, it took me over 300 pages to describe it in my book, Int No Man's Land: A Historical Memoir, I suggest you read it, it is available on Amazon.
There I will take you on a survival journey little written and known about. You will sleep in the winter under an open sky on the no man’s land; you will freeze in a Siberian labor camp where the bears come to your door front. In Uzbekistan, you will live on boiled grass or broiled onions, and shiver with malaria. You will spend years in
orphanages. When this is over you will wonder how a child with this background grows up to become a positive, creative, accomplished woman with a joy of living and love to share.
My background, as you can see is not what people expect of a Holocaust survivor. This one of the reasons the University of Michigan was interested in me writing my story. I invite all of you to visit my website irenemillerspeaker.com to get a better understanding what am trying to do and all the places I have
What would you like to share with the youth of the world today to help make the world a better one?
Image result for irene miller holocaust survivor
Irene giving a presentation to high school students
“I have tried all my adult life to live by a Jewish principle called Tikun Olam, which literally means repairing the world. We each have a responsibility to make this world a little better for everyone. I respect and appreciate every good human being, independent of their religion, the color of their skin, their origin etc. Young people can start with showing understanding and kindness to those who differ from them, have a different lifestyle, but are good
people. It is important to learn and understand what can happen when we do not respect diversity. History has a way of repeating itself, and to help prevent it you have to know what and how it happened."
Do you have any brothers or sister, any other family out there?
“I have only an older sister who lives in Israel. She has been having a tough time, depressed for many years. She is my only living relative from my initial family. My extended family was made of 60 to 70 people, not a single one of them survived the Holocaust."
Irene, you had mentioned earlier on in the interview you have 3 degrees, what are those degrees in?
"B.S. in psychology
Masters in Social psychology
MBA with a major in hospital management"
After the holocaust what happened to you, Irene.
"After the war ended I returned to Poland and spent another 4-5 years in orphanages. I immigrated to Israel and that was a different chapter of my life with different challenges. I knew no one in Israel, did not know the
spoken language there, and at the age of 16-17 had to support myself."
Irene suffered a lot, experienced a lot of pain. In times of pain and, times of joy, times of celebration, we want to to be surrounded by people who loved us and, provide some continuity, that is extended family. these were the times when she experienced the most her loss of such. She has absolutely no sense of continuity just based on the people around me.
From the day the war started Irene was no longer a child, she witnessed killings that no child could ever understand why or what they meant. She learned that she could no longer depend on her parents to protect her, her father could no longer protect her from the events around her. When they had to escape Poland when the Germans stopped their carriage in the middle and ripped off any clothing her father had. it became a sad realization that her father is no longer the omnipotent man that used to be able to protect her.
Escaping to Russia was a combination of two elements. One, escaping the Nazis and, also believing that communism was such a wonderful system for workers. At that time in Europe, workers believed that Communism can best take care of their needs. The family hired a guide to smuggle them across the border into the Soviet Union, but the man dropped them off on the no man's land. The Soviets would not allow anyone to enter. For 6 weeks, in the bitter winter, the family lived in an open field where people were dying of starvation, exposure, diseases etc.
Irene had shared that, “One night I woke up and there was a man under the covers sleeping next to me. I tried to push him out but I must have fallen back to sleep. The next day when I awoke the man that was under the covers next to her was dead."
Irene Miller's "Into No Man's Land"
While in No Man's Land Irene also witnessed a woman trying to get her and her infant closer to a fire to warm them both up. As the woman got closer a man saw what the woman was carrying and, told her your infant does not need warming anymore the baby is dead. The man took the baby out of the mother's arms and, proceed where the Soviet soldiers were guarding the border. The man laid that wrapped infant on the ground in front of the soldiers. The people who were around the fire followed him and, they started to let them in yelling at them, “Can you not see we are all dying one by one out here!” One guard did not say a single word, he just kicked that infant back into the crowd.
If you would like to learn more about Mrs.Irene Miller you can buy her book “Into No Man’s Land: A Historical Memoir” where she goes more into depth about her life story and, those of others that she witnessed. Irene any last remarks you’d like to share with the viewers?
“If any of you read my book and, have any questions, on the back of the book is my email address. I will answer any questions you may have.”