UCSB Oral History Project Homepage > Research and Teaching Homepage > Pro-Seminar Papers > My Introduction to the Holocaust

by Anna Williams
May 22, 2002

[Anna was a graduating senior English major in college when she wrote this narrative. She worked with Nina Morecki to write the story of Nina's life since World War II. (See Anna's narrative about writing that story.)]

I began learning about the Holocaust at a young age. I read The Diary of Anne Frank sedulously as a child and learned the basic facts from my parents. In fact, I believe that my parents, although they did not have a plan of how to teach me about it, played the most instrumental role in my Holocaust education.

I remember watching the movie about The Diary of Anne Frank with my mom. It was more the puppy love story between Anne and Peter and the idea of hiding out that drew my 8 yr old attention, but I will never forget the sound of the boots pounding up the stairs as the families realized the Nazis had found them. Other images of that movie are still with me, and my mom filled in the historical facts I was unsure of. Another memory I have in which I feel my parents played an instrumental role is of footage of a line of undressed prisoners being shot. It was on a history program and it shocked me – I couldn't believe it was real. My parents explained that it was one way prisoners were exterminated in the death camps. At this point I felt I knew what the Holocaust was all about. Although the images of the prisoners being shot horrified me, and I often pictured what I would do in that situation or how I would feel. I think it was better for me to see it than be protected from it.

This is a true story of a ten year old boy who survived almost (5) years in Nazi Concentration Camps with a positive attitude. A child who lost everyone whom he loved and everything he owned and emerged healthy in body and in mind. He achieved success by letting go of ANGER and RESENTMENT while focusing future and forgiveness. In high school we watched Nazi propaganda videos and contemplated how easily one might be swayed into vicious racism. A Holocaust survivor also came and spoke at my school. His name is Harold Gordon. He wrote the book, The Last Sunrise, A True Story [1992, 261 pages] and was a very jovial person. I remember crying during his talk, but the most memorable moment for me was when a friend of mine who was quite close to his German heritage (he even spoke German), went up and shook Harold Gordon's hand afterward. The survivor showed even more excitement to meet my friend after he found out he was German. He wanted to emphasize the point that forgiveness must be exercised. To hate Germans today would be to do the same thing they did during the Third Reich.

A final point I would like to make about my Holocaust education is that my parents' role in it is still strong. Every time I speak to my father about the subject he reminds me that not just Jews were persecuted, but also Gypsies, Homosexuals, upper class Slavs, and the mentally retarded. My father feels that these other groups have been unfairly excluded from Holocaust discourse and the Jewish victims have dominated it to a fault, making it exclusively Jewish and more important than other 20th century genocides, of which there have been plenty.

UCSB Oral History Project Homepage > Research and Teaching Homepage > Pro-Seminar Papers > My Introduction to the Holocaust
Text written June 2002 by Leah Bergner
Last Updated January 1, 2003
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