Jacqueline’s Story - “Everything Will Be Over Soon”

Candles in memory of the holocaust

As I attended a recent Holocaust Remembrance Day service at a local synagogue, I realized that it is the grandchildren of Holocaust survivors—more than any other generation—who want to know and understand the survivors’ stories, and many are making aliyah.  In fact, most of those we assist are the grandchildren of Holocaust survivors—young singles and couples with small children.  I watched as the second and third generation of survivors lit candles in memory of their parents/grandparents, whose painful stories were being read aloud.  You could have heard a pin drop in that synagogue.

We are currently helping a daughter (Jacqueline) and grandson (Jonathan) of Holocaust survivors make aliyah.  As I spoke with Jacqueline, she shared her parents’ story, and I asked her if I could share it with you:

“My father, who was born into an observant family in Poland, was living in Berlin when he met my mother in 1936; my mother was 18, my father 27.  My mother's family members were German assimilated Jews.  My parents married in 1937 and my brother was born a year later.  In October 1938, Nazi Storm Troopers took my father and other Poles to the Polish border.  On that freezing night, the Jews were ordered to run to the border.  My father thought they would be shot.  The Jews ran to the border but the Poles did not let them enter.  (At the time, Germany and Poland were in diplomatic conflict.)  They stayed outdoors until the Polish authorities eventually let them in.  In 1939, my father boarded a ship to the United States.  He was sponsored by distant cousins who gave him $20 and wished him good luck.

In Berlin my mother and infant brother lived in her mother's home.  One night in 1939, the Storm Troopers took them away, but since my mother was married to a Polish citizen, she was also considered Polish; this saved their lives.  When Mom was in France, waiting to board a ship, her mother and sister called her by phone from Germany, telling her not to leave Europe, that "Everything will be over soon.”

In New York my parents lived in a tenement and my mother worked in a sweatshop.  My father was a salesman who taught himself ten English words from the dictionary every day.  He was determined to speak English without a foreign accent.  After my parents died at the ages of 92 and 86, I learned of all the relatives and property we had lost in the Holocaust.

When the Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum came online, I learned that my mother's mother and her younger sister had been exterminated at Minsk, Belorussia.  I think of these two women, alone, struggling together through years of persecution, shot and left in a ditch with countless others, and the terror and fear they endured.  I have never seen photographs of them; I only know their names—my grandmother Meta Simon and my redheaded aunt Liselotte Simon.  May they rest in peace.”

When Jacqueline told me that her grandmother had said, "everything will be over soon,” I was saddened, recalling the awful reality of the Holocaust that would soon follow.  In our own day, here in the USA, we also do not know what tomorrow will bring.  So to those of you who have donated to help Jewish people get home to Israel now, we say thank you.  With your help, they are leaving without distress and fear.

USA Aliyah Director