The Holocaust Through a Granddaughter's Eyes

By Gabby Ruda
Cold Spring Harbor High School, New York

My paternal grandparents died when I was young, but they left behind their stories as survivors of the Holocaust. Their children, my aunt and uncle, and most of my father's family were murdered in the concentration camps. My grandparents always carried the memories of their experience and their children with them. As a grandchild of survivors, I became interested in helping to preserve the past by retelling their stories, and by participating in the Holocaust/Genocide Project in my high school. The memory of the events of the Holocaust will help to provide a force to enable students to understand the importance of promoting harmony and understanding among people. The project first began as a committee to plan an art gallery exhibit in our school about the Holocaust. The committee arranged to borrow works of art relating to the Holocaust from museums and community residents. We selected works that we felt best represented the experiences of a broad spectrum of nationalities and cultures. The gallery exhibit was very successful, because it helped people in our community envision the plight of six million Jews and five million others murdered during World War II. The project has since evolved into a telecommunications network, in which our members communicate with students from other countries. This international program allows students to correspond about Holocaust issues, as well as to inform each other about the other acts of genocide being committed around the world today.

Treblinka Monument
Monument at Treblinka

Last year we began publishing a magazine, An End to Intolerance, which annually features articles, creative writing, and artwork by students from each school in the network.

I believe that our project provides another link in the chain of education that is essential to prevent atrocities such as the Holocaust from occurring again.

One school that we correspond with is the ORT Motzkin School in Kiryat Motzkin, Israel. This past January [1995], some students from Kiryat Motzkin visited New York and stayed in the homes of Cold Spring Harbor students. Efrat Rotem, a high school senior, stayed with me, and visited our school. At the end of the week in New York, the hosts accompanied the Israelis to Washington DC for the weekend to see the Holocaust Memorial Museum. Through photographs, videotapes, and other memorabilia, I was able to gain a heightened sense of what my relatives and others experienced.

As I walked through the exhibit dedicated to the children who perished, I was especially affected as I remembered the young age of my aunt and uncle who died. I also thought of the period during which my own father was homeless before his family finally came to the United States. Seeing the reconstruction of the happy homes of the victims, pictures of their community sports teams, family picnics, and other documentation of the normality in their lives, I learned that something like the Holocaust could happen to anyone, even me.

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