My grandparents, Russian immigrants who escaped the pogroms at the beginning of the last century, made their way to America, met, married and raised a family there, were already elderly by the time I arrived and never really talked about what life was like in Russia. First of all because they didn’t want to talk about their previous life in Russia (they were both teenagers when they arrived in the US) and second I was too young to know enough to ask them.
Fast forward to high school and my closest friend. Her parents were both Holocaust survivors and I remember sitting on their living room couch, listening to my friend’s father recall how he and many others with him had jumped from a transit train bringing them to Sobibor and despite having been shot and left for dead, he survived. Although my friend’s father passed away a couple of years ago (z”l), his and his wife’s testimonies can still be heard online at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. Scroll down the page to “Mastbaum”. In spite of the poor sound quality (it was recorded in 1983), their interviews are interesting not only because of their holocaust experiences, but also their recalling of what life was like in Poland before WWII. My 81 year-old Polish born mother-in-law still can’t talk about her experiences.
At 10:00 a.m. this morning, as a siren wails, we as a country will stand for a minute’s silence remembering those that died in the Holocaust. May their memories be blessed.