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Fifty Years Later:Reflections on
Teaching the Holocaust to Young People

by: Judy (Weissenberg) Cohen


I am a survivor of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Bergen Belsen, slave labour at a Junkers Aeroplane factory and a death march. I was liberated by the American Forces on May 5, 1945 in a small town called Duben, somewhere near Leipzig, in Germany.

I am a frequent speaker to hundreds of young people at our Holocaust Education and Memorial Centre in Toronto, Canada.


I stand in front of you
and see your innocent stares,
looking at me, anticipating a personal account of my
pains and nightmares.How do I begin?
How can I make you understand and feel
the deep scars that I carry
fragile and still easy to bleed?

How do I tell you about human created hunger
hopeless, no-end-in-sight,
when, perhaps, you just had a good meal
and feel full and warm inside?

How do I tell you about constant fear
in the pit of the stomach, the nauseating kind
when, hopefully, you experienced only
goodwill and peace in your short life?

How do I tell you about losing family and friends
in a matter of minutes
by moving thumbs in white gloves,
belong to a Nazi
a so- called human being?

How do I tell you about the odor of burning flesh,
tortures and killings of innocent people
that were planned cold bloodedly, years before!
drinking and singing around the table?

How do I tell you about Auschwitz-Birkenau
the efficient killing machine
where mothers, babies, children and the old
marched to the “showers” and out as smoke?

How do I tell you about being torn from
all my loved ones in my teens
when you only know and should know
the warm embrace of family and peers?

How do I tell you about
the genocide of six million and more
during which my family lost eighty one,
when you can happily look at yours and declare
missing: NONE.

I do however, know to praise
those wonderful few, defiant and brave,
at great risk to themselves,
reached out and helped many lives to save.

I stand in front of you
and see your innocent stares,
but having heard it all
your gaze is no longer there!

You have lowered your eyes
so sorry! I saddened you,
having heard a witness
now, you become a witness too.

To inform and teach my story is told.
I urge you to be fair-minded and bold.
For it is up to you, THE YOUNG
how the future will unfold.

Let us create a society
free of hatred and hunger
where respect for each other
glows like a beautiful ember.