United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

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Peter Becker’s N**i education began when he was just six years old at a German boarding school. “I had sort of imbibed i...
01/05/2024

Peter Becker’s N**i education began when he was just six years old at a German boarding school.

“I had sort of imbibed it from morning till night. I had drunken it, I had eaten it, it was part of my life,” Peter later recalled.

“By the time the war ended in 1945, when I was 15, I had become a N**i without ever really being aware that I was one.”

​​Extremist groups today prey upon vulnerable young people. They seek to shape minds and win followers by introducing antisemitic stereotypes, racism, and conspiracy theories—often inspired by N**i ideology.

They also teach young people to believe they are part of something important, something bigger than themselves.

Peter recalled feeling that way.

“Hi**er came along to lift Germany out of this muck and mire, and bring it back to greatness, and we felt that we were part of that, and we were very proud of that.”

It wasn’t until years after World War II that Peter understood that he had become radicalized. He finally believed that his fellow Germans were responsible for the mass murder of Europe’s Jews. Peter immigrated to the United States and later became a history professor.

Watch live on Facebook on January 12 at noon ET to learn what Holocaust history can teach us about the dangers of normalizing extremist beliefs.

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Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 119-5592-14A / CC-BY-SA 3.0

As a young Jewish girl living in N**i Germany, Brigitte Freidin never forgot being turned away when she wanted to play w...
01/03/2024

As a young Jewish girl living in N**i Germany, Brigitte Freidin never forgot being turned away when she wanted to play with her non-Jewish friends.

"When I knocked on the door I was told, ‘Gretchen can’t play with you ... don’t come back,’" she remembered.

It wasn't just her friends who turned her away. Brigitte was barred from attending public school and using local swimming pools due to antisemitic legislation.

On the night of November 9–10, 1938, Brigitte woke to loud crashing noises and rocks being thrown through her window during Kristallnacht—a night of nationwide violence against Jews. Brigitte's parents pulled her into their bed to wait out the attack.

The next morning, Brigitte’s father, Siegfried, was arrested and sent to the Dachau concentration camp.

After five months, Siegfried was released on the condition that the family leave Germany in just three weeks. Brigitte and her family first traveled to England before finally immigrating to the United States in 1939.

Photo: Courtesy of Brigitte Freidin

Beno Helmer thought he was his family's sole survivor. His life changed on New Year's Day in 1947.In 1944, as they stepp...
01/01/2024

Beno Helmer thought he was his family's sole survivor. His life changed on New Year's Day in 1947.

In 1944, as they stepped from the rail car at the Auschwitz-Birkenau killing center, Beno was surrounded by his family for the last time.

“They put us in lines ... They put us altogether and then they separated us. And I didn’t want to leave my mother,” Beno remembered decades later, breaking into tears.

Beno was directed one way while he watched a German SS official direct his mother, father, and brother in the opposite direction. “What he did to my sister, I didn’t see.”

Beno survived Auschwitz, other camps, and forced labor. After the war, he visited town after town searching for his family. One day, outside a displaced person camp in Landsberg, Germany, he was stopped at an intersection when a man yelled from a truck, “How’s Sonia?” Beno replied that his sister was dead. The man said, “I just saw her.”

Sonia was a common enough name. Beno wasn’t sure what to believe, but he kept searching.

During another chance encounter, he met a woman who said she knew Sonia. In fact, Sonia was hosting a New Year’s Eve party in a town in the region of Westphalia, Germany. Beno and the woman headed to the train station but it wasn’t running because of the holiday. The next morning, when they arrived, a woman answered the door and called for Sonia to greet her guests.

“She says hello,” Beno remembered. At first, she “didn’t realize it was me.” Then Sonia fainted.

On New Year’s Day 1947, Beno was reunited with his sister.

Photo: USHMM, courtesy of Beno Helmer

Years before Harri Hoffman and Herta Goldschmidt were married, they celebrated a carefree New Year's Eve with their frie...
12/31/2023

Years before Harri Hoffman and Herta Goldschmidt were married, they celebrated a carefree New Year's Eve with their friends. Harri is pictured here standing fourth from the left, and Herta is sitting on the piano on the far right.

The pair grew up in Aurich, Germany, and lived around the corner from each other. Only a few years after this photo was taken, the N**is took power in Germany, changing the course of their lives forever.

As German Jews, Harri and Herta were subjected to increasingly restrictive antisemitic policies. By November 1938, the couple had been together for years but had put off marriage.

According to their daughter, "You just couldn’t get married and establish a household in that environment.”

The night of Kristallnacht, Harri peered out the window to see the commotion only to be met with a bullet that only barely missed him and ricocheted into his mother’s bed.

It had now become clear that if Harri and Herta wanted to start a life together, they would have to leave Germany. A few months later, the couple married and managed to immigrate to the United States. They settled in Milwaukee where Harri founded a successful shoe polish company.

“Sometimes immigrants fall into two categories: those that don’t want to talk about it and those that do talk about it. And he always believed in talking about it,” said Harri’s daughter. “People needed to know.”

Photo: USHMM, courtesy of Lorraine Hoffman

“Living as a ‘Catholic’ became a routine,” remembered Holocaust survivor Halina Peabody. “And during our little secret t...
12/25/2023

“Living as a ‘Catholic’ became a routine,” remembered Holocaust survivor Halina Peabody. “And during our little secret talks, my mother spoke to me about religion. She wanted to make sure that I did not forget who I was. She told me, ‘We all pray to the same God but through different religions—and you are Jewish.’”

Halina Peabody (born Halina Litman) was nearly 10 years old when she, her mother Olga, and her sister Eva, went into hiding. N**i authorities had just started rounding up the remaining Jewish population of their town in German-occupied Poland. Olga knew she needed to act quickly in order to save her family. She secured false documents from a priest that identified her and her daughters as Catholic.

Olga and the girls boarded a train to Jaroslaw to begin their new lives. Once there, they found housing with a local washerwoman who took in boarders. They never revealed their true identities to their new landlady. Halina received her First Communion and attended Mass regularly with her mother and sister.

“I was very anxious about going to church,” said Halina. “Because I didn't know anything about the Catholic religion, didn't know anything about my own, but less about the Catholic. All I knew was to cross myself going in and out of church.”

Despite her initial uncertainty, Halina was an attentive student and quickly learned the Catechism by heart. She is shown here (right) with her sister in front of the Christmas tree during this period of time.

Halina, Eva, and Olga survived the war in hiding. Halina immigrated to the United States in 1968. She never forgot her mother's advice, saying "[It] saved me from having any conflicts for the rest of my life. I bless her for being so intuitive."

Photo: USHMM, courtesy of Halina Peabody

On December 25, 1943, Berl Gempel made a daring escape that likely saved his life.After the German army had invaded his ...
12/24/2023

On December 25, 1943, Berl Gempel made a daring escape that likely saved his life.

After the German army had invaded his hometown of Kaunas, Lithuania, in 1941, Berl and his family had been forced into the ghetto. Berl joined the resistance and after almost two years in the ghetto attempted to flee.

Berl was caught and then interrogated and tortured by German authorities for more than two weeks. He was then sent to the Ninth Fort, an old fortification on the outskirts of the city. There, German authorities tortured and conducted mass killings of Kaunas’s Jewish population. Berl was temporarily spared, as he was assigned to a forced labor unit that exhumed bodies from mass graves and burned them in order to cover up evidence of N**i crimes.

Berl knew it was only a matter of time before he too would be murdered, so he and other members of the unit began planning their escape.

They set the date of their escape as December 25—Christmas. As the Germans were celebrating that night, Berl and fellow prisoners fled through tunnels under the fort before scaling its walls using a makeshift rope ladder.

Many of the escapees were later captured, but Berl was not. He joined the partisans for the rest of the war. Shortly after liberation, Berl revisited the Ninth Fort and is pictured here (second from the left) with some of his fellow escapees. Berl believed that only seven or eight of the approximately 60 people to escape the Ninth Fort that night survived until the end of the war.

Photo: USHMM, courtesy of Beit Lohamei Haghetaot (Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum)

After escaping Berlin as a child, Stephan H. Lewy returned to Europe as a member of the US Army to help defeat N**i Germ...
12/23/2023

After escaping Berlin as a child, Stephan H. Lewy returned to Europe as a member of the US Army to help defeat N**i Germany.

Stephan, who was considered Jewish under N**i racial laws because his mother was Protestant and his father was Jewish, faced rising antisemitism after the N**is took power in 1933. He had to enroll in a Jewish school and remembers being beaten up by members of the Hi**er Youth. In July 1939, his father, Arthur, decided to send him on a Kindertransport to safety in France.

When the German Army invaded and occupied the northern part of France the next year, Stephan found himself in danger once again. After learning that his father and stepmother had made it to the United States, he managed to immigrate there in June 1942.

Shortly after Stephan's 18th birthday in 1943, he joined the US Army and was sent to Camp Ritchie, where he trained as an intelligence officer—along with some 2,000 other Jewish refugees. At the Battle of the Bulge—one of the bloodiest battles of World War II—Stephan served alongside American and British troops in freezing conditions. He survived the battle and went on to help liberate the Buchenwald concentration camp.

Photo: USHMM, courtesy of Stephan H. Lewy

Jana Malish never believed it mattered that she was Jewish and one of her closest friends, Jadwiga, was Christian. But a...
12/18/2023

Jana Malish never believed it mattered that she was Jewish and one of her closest friends, Jadwiga, was Christian. But after N**i Germany occupied their hometown things changed, and the young woman betrayed Jana when she needed her most.

Jadwiga came from a poor family, and before the war often ate meals at Jana's home. Sometimes Jana's mother gave her clothing.

So Jana was not shocked when Jadwiga offered to help after she witnessed N**is viciously raid the Malish house.

"They started screaming and yelling, Jew, give us everything you have."

One of the men noticed Jadwiga's cross and sent her home. But Jadwiga returned, offering to shelter any remaining valuables.

"She started crying and started kissing me. ... If you have anything that is valuable, you have to hide it because you will have no money and will starve."

Jadwiga and her father carried home a large set of gold and silver cutlery, crystal, a tablecloth embroidered with gold, clothing, and a crocodile bag.

One day, when Jana went to Jadwiga for help, she found the family using the silverware and crystal. Jadwiga's mother was wearing some of the clothing.

Finally, after the Germans forced Jana into a ghetto, Jadwiga's cousin came to warn her about Jadwiga. He said that Jadwiga had told him that if Jana tried to collect any of her things or go back to her for help, her former friend would report her.

"This is the real truth. That was my girlfriend. We used to go together, have fun together, laugh together. ... She did it to me, to us, to my family."

12/16/2023

In his secret diary, American soldier Stephen Schweitzer wrote of love and loss. Hope and fear. Prayers and dreams.

“Just wait for nights to come to dream of Helen & kiddies,” Stephen wrote about his wife and family on January 8, 1945.

N**is captured him and other Americans during the Battle of the Bulge, which began in December 1944. Until they were liberated in April 1945, Stephen journaled about his experiences and the deaths of some of his comrades.

“Rogers died today from overwork & malnutrition,” he wrote on March 9, 1945.

Watch to learn how Stephen and his diary managed to survive.

12/13/2023

Born to a Catholic mother and a Jewish father, Peter Stein was not subject to the same antisemitic N**i laws experienced by his father and other Jews in German-occupied Prague. Hear Peter share how he and his mother survived the war after his father was sent away.

Peter Stein was six years old when he came face to face with a German SS officer. He was on his way to school when the o...
12/13/2023

Peter Stein was six years old when he came face to face with a German SS officer. He was on his way to school when the officer approached Peter on the tram and demanded his seat.

“It petrified me,” recalled Peter. “I went as far away from him as possible, thinking, ‘Does he know who I am? Does he know that my father is Jewish?’”

Hear Peter share is his story today at 1 p.m. ET.

At four years old, Elizabeth Lusthaus Strassburger and her mother, Helena, began hiding in plain sight. In the summer of...
12/12/2023

At four years old, Elizabeth Lusthaus Strassburger and her mother, Helena, began hiding in plain sight.

In the summer of 1942, as German authorities began deporting Jews from the Tarnów ghetto to the Belzec killing center, Helena secured false identification papers for herself and Elizabeth. They fled to another town in German-occupied Poland, where they were unlikely to be recognized, and moved in with mutual friends, who took in the mother and daughter at great risk.

As part of her false identity, Elizabeth was raised Catholic and attended a Catholic school. “I went to church, and I prayed,” she reflected.

Elizabeth had little memory of her life before the war and was unaware that she was Jewish. There was one moment, however, that she could never forget.

“I remember my grandmother, and I remember the Germans taking her. That's a very, very vivid memory for me.”

Elizabeth would not understand what had happened to her grandmother—or learn her true identity—until after she was liberated

In January 1945, Helena told Elizabeth, then six years old, that she was actually Jewish, not Catholic. Elizabeth was horrified as she had internalized the antisemitic rhetoric that she had heard for years and remembered thinking that being Jewish “meant that I was the awful person.”

Several months later, Elizabeth was reunited with her father, a Polish soldier who had been captured by the Soviet army in 1939. In 1951 the family came to the United States.

Elizabeth began volunteering at our Museum in 1994. She participated in First Person programs and also worked with collections.

"And to the young people here, you’re our future, and we look to you to change things … "

Click the link in to learn about Elizabeth.

Elzbieta grew up in Iwonicz, a resort town in southwestern Poland noted for its mineral water. Her father, Edmund, was a respected physician and her mother, Helena, had studied pharmacology. At home, they spoke Polish and were among the few Jewish famil...

Peter Stein once asked his father, “Why didn’t you leave?”He remembered his father responding, “We knew it would be diff...
12/11/2023

Peter Stein once asked his father, “Why didn’t you leave?”

He remembered his father responding, “We knew it would be difficult, but we thought we would survive. … We never had a sense … of how bad it would be.”

The N**is eventually sent Peter’s father to the Theresienstadt ghetto along with other Jews in “mixed marriages.” Peter remained behind in Prague with his Catholic mother.

Tune in on Wednesday, December 13 at 1 p.m. ET to hear Peter share how he and his father survived, when many of their relatives did not.

Photos: Courtesy of Peter Stein

"We had a normal life with our neighbors. As children, we were invited for Christmas, birthday parties, whatever was cel...
12/10/2023

"We had a normal life with our neighbors. As children, we were invited for Christmas, birthday parties, whatever was celebrated. We were always invited. ... Everything was just fine until 1933 when Hi**er came to power."

Susan Taube (pictured right) was seven years old when the N**is took power in Germany. "Things just changed rapidly," she remembered. In her hometown of Vacha, N**is led a boycott of Jewish-owned shops, including her family's general store. Townspeople hurled insults at their Jewish neighbors, and Jewish children were barred from participating in school activities. Susan recalled that she was completely ignored by her classmates and teachers.

"Hi**er blamed everything on the Jews. So naturally people started
to believe it," Susan reflected.

The situation for Susan's family and other German Jews continued to deteriorate. In November 1938, the N**is orchestrated a night of state-sponsored, anti-Jewish violence known as Kristallnacht. Susan’s father was imprisoned in the Buchenwald concentration camp but was released on the condition that he would leave the country. Though he managed to immigrate to the United States, he was unable to get his family out of Germany. Susan and her family moved to Berlin, where they were required to perform forced labor.

In January 1942, N**i German authorities deported them from Berlin to the Riga ghetto. Susan and her family would spend nearly 20 months in the Riga ghetto, where they lived through a freezing winter with no heat, no running water, and little food. When German authorities liquidated the ghetto in 1943, they were sent to the Kaiserwald concentration camp. There, Susan was separated from her sister and mother. It would be the last time she saw them.

All alone, Susan survived two more concentration camps and a death march before she was liberated in March 1945.

Susan and her husband, also a Holocaust survivor, eventually immigrated to the United States, where Susan reunited with her father. They were the only survivors from their immediate family.

Photo: USHMM, courtesy of Susan and Herman Taube

He was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize ten times, but chances are you don't know his name.Polish Jewish lawyer Raphael...
12/08/2023

He was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize ten times, but chances are you don't know his name.

Polish Jewish lawyer Raphael Lemkin fled the N**is after the German invasion of Poland in September 1939, but was not able to convince his parents to leave with him. After immigrating to the United States, he was haunted by not being able to do more for them and other European Jews. He described his separation from his family as “going to their funeral while they were still alive.”

Most of Raphael's family members—including his parents—were killed during the Holocaust.

Using his legal background, Raphael explored how crimes like the Holocaust could be prevented in the future. He coined the term "genocide," meaning the intentional destruction of a group. In December 1948, the United Nations adopted the Genocide Convention, recognizing genocide as a crime.

After years of fighting for the recognition of this crime, Raphael died exhausted and penniless nine years later. Only decades later was he recognized for his contributions.

Photo: UN

During Hanukkah in 1931, Rabbi Akiva Posner’s family placed their menorah near the window, as many Jewish families do in...
12/07/2023

During Hanukkah in 1931, Rabbi Akiva Posner’s family placed their menorah near the window, as many Jewish families do in an outward sign of their faith. But this was not any year.

That year, the N**is were making their presence known in Kiel, where the N**i Party was especially popular. Through the rabbi's window, a sw****ka flag flew from a building just across the street where the local N**i Party had an office. Hi**er had not yet risen to power in Germany, but in Posner’s community of Kiel tensions were rising.

In the years to come, Posner, a leading rabbi in the city, publicly opposed the N**i Party's acts of discrimination against the town’s Jewish community. He wrote a letter of protest in the local press after posters appeared outside certain establishments declaring "Jews may not enter."

Tensions in the city turned to violence and state-sponsored discrimination. Rabbi Posner urged members of his community to leave N**i Germany, and the Posner family fled in 1933. The menorah was one of the treasured possessions they carried with them.

Rabbi Posner’s wife, Rachel, wrote on the back of the photo:

"Death to Judah"
So the flag says
"Judah will live forever"
So the light answers

For more than 90 years, the Posner family has continued to light the candles on this same menorah.

See photos of the family in our comments.

Photos: USHMM, courtesy of Shulamith Posner-Mansbach

  in 1941, Judah Nadich was working as a rabbi in Chicago when he heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor, a US naval bas...
12/07/2023

in 1941, Judah Nadich was working as a rabbi in Chicago when he heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor, a US naval base in Hawaii.

“I recall listening to the radio on December the 7th, 1941, and hearing that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor, and I knew instinctively that I wanted to be a part of what was going to happen.”

In response to the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States declared war on Japan. N**i Germany, an Axis ally of Japan, then declared war on the US.

With the US now at war, Judah enlisted as a chaplain. But even before Pearl Harbor, he had been considering joining the army after hearing about N**i Germany's anti-Jewish laws and targeted violence.

“We had been reading in the press about Kristallnacht … not too long before, and we knew that there, there was some kind of persecution against the Jews under the N**is, so I felt sure that I wanted to enlist as a chaplain.”

After Judah enlisted, he was sent to Great Britain in 1942 as the first Jewish chaplain in the European Theater of Operations.

Meanwhile, US forces spent most of 1942 fighting the Japanese in the Pacific. It was not until July 1943 that there were American troops fighting on the ground in Europe. By then, the N**is and their allies and collaborators had already murdered millions of Jews.

After the Allies liberated Paris in 1944, Judah began working to support Holocaust survivors and to rebuild Jewish communities.

After the war he continued working as a rabbi and advocating for civil rights.

Photo 1: USHMM
Photo 2: USHMM, courtesy of National Archives

“There were signs everywhere saying, ‘Verboten,’ meaning ‘not allowed’ ... I’ll never forget that word, ‘Verboten.’”—Rut...
12/04/2023

“There were signs everywhere saying, ‘Verboten,’ meaning ‘not allowed’ ... I’ll never forget that word, ‘Verboten.’”—Ruth Stern

As the only deaf member of her family, Ruth was five years old in 1933 when she was sent to live at a Jewish school for the deaf in Berlin.

Despite living mostly within the walls and under the protection of her deaf Jewish school, Ruth still encountered the realities of life as a Jew in N**i Germany.

One day, Ruth left the school with a chaperone to retrieve her passport. As the two walked past the N**i headquarters in Berlin, the person accompanying her raised his arm and gave the N**i salute. Later, Ruth expressed the discomfort and confusion she had felt in the moment.

Ruth also remembered how quickly the laws changed to prevent Jewish people from entering spaces they had once frequented.

“One time, I went to see a movie and discovered that Jewish people were not allowed into the movie theater. It was forbidden. Even swimming pools were off limits. It was against the law.”

In September 1938, ten-year-old Ruth sailed by herself to join her family in the United States.

Photo: Courtesy of Ruth Stern

This International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we recognize the first victims of the N**is’ systematic mass murder...
12/03/2023

This International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we recognize the first victims of the N**is’ systematic mass murder—people with disabilities.

N**i ideology held that people with disabilities threatened a “pure” German race. In this N**i propaganda slide, the caption reads: "Life without hope." In 1939, the N**is began a “euthanasia” program targeting anyone whom they deemed “unworthy of life.”

Photo: USHMM, courtesy of Marion Davy

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Lore Segal’s parents could not at first agree about how to protect their young daughter. But after the Germans annexed A...
12/02/2023

Lore Segal’s parents could not at first agree about how to protect their young daughter. But after the Germans annexed Austria and discriminatory policies against Jews turned to violence, Lore’s mother finally consented to the unimaginable—she would send Lore away to try to save her.

At a going-away gathering, Lore’s father held her close and told her that when she arrived in Great Britain she must ask everyone she met to help the rest of her family get out.

“Before long I had a list of people, whom I, at 10 years old, had promised to save from Hi**er,” Lore remembered.

Though the separation was painful, Lore and other children accepted onto the Kindertransport were among the fortunate few.

This effort begun by British citizens and refugee aid organizations would become among the largest international efforts to rescue children from the N**i threat. About 10,000 child refugees were taken into Great Britain before the program was halted after Germany invaded Poland—setting off World War II.

On this day 85 years ago, the first group of Jewish refugee children arrived in Great Britain.

Photos: USHMM, Lore Segal; USHMM, courtesy of Instytut Pamieci Narodowej

12/01/2023

They dressed their children—some just babies—in their best clothing, lovingly packed toys and family photos, and prepared to say goodbye—maybe forever. Eighty-five years ago, thousands of Jewish mothers and fathers saw the escalating violence and discrimination against Jews in N**i Germany and made an almost inconceivable decision. Though they wanted to hold their children closer, they sent them away instead.

Strangers in Great Britain took many of these children into their homes. About 10,000 were saved from the N**i threat through a rescue mission known as the Kindertransport. Many of their parents were murdered in the Holocaust. Join us to learn more about the Kindertransport program that saved these children’s lives.

Norbert Wollheim helped thousands of Jewish children flee N**i Germany but he could not save his own son.A young married...
11/30/2023

Norbert Wollheim helped thousands of Jewish children flee N**i Germany but he could not save his own son.

A young married man, Norbert postponed his plans to immigrate with his wife when Jewish leaders asked him to help organize the Kindertransport, one of the largest international efforts to rescue children from the N**i threat.

British citizens and refugee aid organizations had seen news coverage of a N**i-orchestrated wave of violence targeting Jews nationwide in Germany in November 1938. They convinced the British government to take in refugee children under age 17 on a temporary basis, creating the Kindertransport.

Norbert’s wife gave birth to their son as he was handling the logistics of other children’s escapes—arranging their records, reserving seats on trains, and selecting adults to es**rt them to Great Britain. Norbert was assured his own family would be able to leave when the work was done.

Organizers of the Kindertransport feared that German officials would end the mission if parents attracted too much attention with emotional goodbyes in public. Norbert had the task of counseling parents to keep their emotions under control.

“Very often after that I have asked myself the question: ‘Where did I take the courage from to tell these people to say goodbye?’ And the answer to that is that none of us … could foresee even at this moment that for most of the children and most of the parents, it would be the last goodbye,” Norbert said.

Watch live on Facebook on Dec. 1 at 1 p.m. ET to learn why Norbert wasn't able to save his son or wife.

Photos: USHMM, gift of Charlotte Wollheim
Oesterreichische Nationalbibliothek

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"No matter how painful it is, I share the truth of what I experienced during the Holocaust. ... I do it because the worl...
11/28/2023

"No matter how painful it is, I share the truth of what I experienced during the Holocaust. ... I do it because the world needs my voice."—Ruth Cohen

Ruth was deported with her family to Auschwitz in 1944, when she was 14. After several months there, she was sent to another concentration camp. Despite becoming very sick and being subjected to forced labor, Ruth managed to survive until her liberation in spring 1945.

After the war, Ruth learned that her mother and brother were murdered in Auschwitz's gas chambers almost immediately upon their arrival.

Ruth immigrated to the United States in 1948 and is now a dedicated volunteer at our Museum, where she shares her Holocaust experience with visitors and remembers the loved ones she lost. When asked why she volunteers, Ruth said: "The world must learn the unthinkable consequences of unchecked antisemitism and hate."

This , help share stories like Ruth's. Donate today.

Photo: USHMM, courtesy of Ruth Cohen

“I became a split personality—a N**i by day and a Jew by night."Solly Perel, a German Jewish teenager, survived the Holo...
11/27/2023

“I became a split personality—a N**i by day and a Jew by night."

Solly Perel, a German Jewish teenager, survived the Holocaust in the unlikeliest of places: as a student at a Hi**er Youth boarding school.

In the 1930s, Solly and his family left N**i Germany for Poland. After the German invasion in 1939, Solly fled to Soviet-occupied Poland, but was caught following the N**i occupation.

Solly, 16, told German soldiers his name was Josef "Jupp" Perjell and that he was a Christian German whose papers had been destroyed in the war. While he was at first taken in as an unofficial member of a German Army unit, he was eventually sent to an elite Hi**er Youth school.

At the school, coincidentally just 12 miles from his hometown, the N**is attempted to instill their hateful and discriminatory ideas about Jews into the younger generation.

"The young N**is were full of ideology. The lectures in race theory were torture for me," Solly recalled. "Week after week, we would study how to recognize a Jew.”

At the heart of these ideas was racial antisemitism, the prejudice against or hatred of Jews based on the discriminatory and false claim that Jews are a separate and inferior race. Solly experienced firsthand both the danger and the absurdity of N**i racial theories when a "race science" teacher singled out Solly as a model of a typical eastern Baltic, ethnic German.

“He (the teacher) pulled me out as a case study and I trembled as he measured my skull. Then he said, ‘Look at this boy. He is the perfect example of a Baltic A***n.’ I could not say thank you, neither could I tell him that if he knew the truth, his theory would crumble."

Later after the war, Solly ran into the teacher who identified him as a perfect A***n.

“When I told him his theory was wrong—that I was a pure Jew—he was stunned.”

Solly immigrated to Israel to be with an older brother. His sister and parents did not survive.

Photo: USHMM, courtesy of Shlomo (Solly) Perel

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