HomeMay 2013Never Forget

Never Forget

It is difficult to think about how miserable life was for the Jews who lived through the Holocaust.  Many have chosen not to remember, to never speak of this horrible tragedy, but most of us have decided that we must never forget.  History has a way of repeating itself, so it is our duty to educate the community and prevent anything like this from happening again.  The Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., gives people, young and old, an accurate depiction of what life was like during Hitler’s reign.
As an eighth grader at Corona del Mar High School, I have spent the last couple of months learning about the Holocaust and reading Elie Wiesel’s Night.  When we began this unit, I was shocked that many of my classmates knew absolutely nothing about the Holocaust.  Some had never been educated about the mass murder of approximately ten million people, of which six million were Jews.  In every new generation, fewer people are educated about the Holocaust.  We are the last generation to hear the stories from the survivors.
When my school took our annual eighth grade trip to New York and Washington D.C., one of the most important stops was the Holocaust Memorial Museum.  “The Holocaust Museum was important for the students, because they saw the effects of unchecked intolerance and hate, and I hope they apply the lessons they learned to their own world views,” said Chris Brude, teacher at Corona del Mar High School and chaperone on the trip.
Upon arrival, each student was assigned to a real person who was alive during the Holocaust.  I was assigned to a young girl named Hanna Ellenbogen.  We were each given a “Passport” that led us through the museum, while following our person on the tragic journey through the Holocaust.
We began our tour by hearing how Adolf Hitler used propaganda and persuasion to gain power over the Jewish people.  We watched old videos of the Nazis parading through the streets as thousands of people cheered and saluted.  I was astonished at the lengths to which the Nazis would go to brainwash people.  I also saw the patches that the citizens had to wear after the Nazis took control over their cities, including the dreaded yellow star.
I read the history of Hanna Ellenbogen, the young, Jewish girl that I had been assigned to follow through the Holocaust.  Before the war, Hanna was happily living with her family in Rozwadow, Poland.  Before proceeding to the next floor, I took one last glance at the picture of the smiling Jewish family.  Those were the last smiles that I saw in the museum, as I ventured on, to the horrors that lied ahead.
On the next floor, I entered a room full of sobbing tourists.  I saw photographs of the Jews being deported to the ghettos, and then the concentration camps.  After learning the details of the deportations, and reading the next part of Hanna’s story, I saw a life-size replica of a cattle car – the kind used to transport as many people as possible to the concentration camps.  Hundreds of humans were crammed inside for many days, unable to sit down and dying of hunger and thirst.
As I wandered through the dark cattle car, the deafening echo of silence ringing in my ears, I imagined myself in the shoes of one of the victims of the Holocaust.  I could imagine the fear and extreme terror as I pictured the victims getting recklessly thrown into the cattle cars by the hundred. As they were beaten down and shoved into the cattle cars, the victims were unsure if they would ever see their beloved families again or even live to see another day.
Then I learned all about life, and unfortunately, death, in the concentration camps.  I saw horrifying things, such as photographs of the dehumanizing medical experiments that the Nazi doctors performed on prisoners of the camps.  I also discovered how poor the living conditions were.  On an average day, able-bodied prisoners had to work for many long hours, with only a ration of bread or soup to fill their stomachs.  Most Holocaust victims were separated from their loved ones within seconds of their arrival at the camps.
I was relieved to see the American flag when I entered the final floor.  When Hitler knew he was losing the war, he resorted to his “Final Solution.”  He decided to eliminate as many Jews as possible before losing the war.  Luckily, the camps were liberated by countries such as Russia and America, before Hitler could wipe out the entire European Jewish population.  As I read the final pages of Hanna’s story, I discovered that she had not lived to see the end of the war.  She, like many others, had lost her life in the Jewish genocide.
Visiting the Holocaust Memorial Museum really opened my eyes to how difficult life was for the Jews during the Holocaust.  My visit to the museum helped me connect with my past and gave me a better understanding of the events that occurred during these terrifying times.  It is important to have museums such as this, to learn about our history and remember the tough times that our people had to tolerate.  It may be painful to remember, but it will be more painful to forget.
I learned about my history as both an American and a Jew – two important parts of my life that make me equally proud.  I am thankful for the many freedoms we are given as Americans.  The Jews have freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution, but it is important to remember the horrors of the past.  The best way to ensure that these events don’t reoccur in history is to pass down the stories of the Holocaust to our children and grandchildren.  While the Holocaust will seem like a distant memory or a glimpse into a horrifying alternate universe, we must always remember to never forget.

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  1. Fantastic piece of writing by this young lady. When visiting Washington, D.C., parents should definitely take their children, 10 years and older, to the U.S. Holocaust Museum. To shelter them from this would be a big mistake, for tolorence should be learned at a young age. It’s amazing how much children can remember, and if there’s one single thing they’ve got to know, is that man’s inhumanity to man is a sin that must be prevented.

  2. Great writing, and understanding from an 8th grader, and her realization that her generation will be the last to hear the stories of living survivors of the Holocaust,,

    Hanna Scohenbaum keep the Hanna Ellenbogen story alive and the Holocaust story will live on for generations.

    Love to you from Florida

  3. Dear Hannah,
    Very impressive article. Your insight and understanding of the horrors were well represented in your piece. We must never forget the suffering of our people during those times in order to prevent anything like this to occur again. The museums are important as a reminder of what these poor people endured, and to inform the idiots who believe that these atrocities never happened. I’m glad you had this experience, and keep writing! You have a gift.

  4. Hannah, I am extremely proud of your beautiful essay, insight and importance of what you learned after visiting the Holocaust museum in Washington, D.C. You have a wonderful way of expressing yourself and have made some excellent points.
    I took my grandchildren to visit the museum last year and I am going to email this article to them so they can get an even better understanding of what they say from the eyes of someone their own age.
    You have a wonderful gift of expressing your thoughts. I hope you continue your writing on other subjects as well.

  5. I have never met a kid with such a talent as yours. The way that you expressed your deep emotions and incredible understanding of the topic shows the signs of a true writing prodigy! How much are they paying you dear? Stories like this are worth a million in my opinion. Anyways, I 100 percent agree with what you said in this article and you better keep passing down these stories because us old folk won’t be around for much longer to tell those stories ourselves. Keep up the amazing work and what ever you do, never stop writing. I have to admit, I am a big fan of yours.


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