lunes, 10 de mayo de 2010




Personal Opinion from 3 interviewers


Maria: WWII was the most horrible war in history. Interviewing Esther, a holocaust survivor, made me realize how much did the Jewish people suffered. I knew that they had suffered a lot, I just did not know about their real feelings. Esther has made a great impact on my life, because she showed me that no matter what, you should never give up because there’s always hope. I enjoyed doing this project with my friends, interviewing Esther and creating a blog.

Kayla: I thought the Holocaust Survivor project was a great idea. Even though I had learned a lot about the Holocaust and WWII in Hebrew School, this project really expanded my knowledge. I felt that talking with an actual survivor really helped me to understand the situation better. When Esther Lauer, our interviewee, was explaining her life stories, I almost felt like I was in that time when people had to go through such hardships to survive. It made me feel really lucky and grateful for everything and made me think I shouldn’t take a lot of things for granted.

Claudia: In my opinion the interview with Esther was very special. It was special because she shared with us a very horrible thing that happened to her. She did not just tell us what happened during that time; she told us how it felt, how the insecurity of whether she would be alive the next day, the hard work, the cold, and most importantly the happiness she experienced the day she was freed. Something that I liked is that she had so much confidence with us that she told us about her life after the Holocaust and she told us where she lived and how she met her husband and also that she has a boyfriend right now and I think that that is very special because someone that is so open to talk to teenagers what she went through at our age is amazing. Her story also encourages us to never give up because Esther never gave up and she survived one of the hardest parts of her life.

Historical Context

Esther Bauer was 9 years old when Hitler came to power in 1933. Germany was in such economic and political distress that they were very supportive of Hitler, even though he had been imprisoned and many of his ideas seemed crazy. Hitler hated Jews from the beginning and not many other people cared. They were so desperate for some order to be brought into the deteriorating political situation of the country. There was nothing different when he first arrived because Hitler did things very slowly and gradually, in order to start taking control. When people started noticing the changes, there was a boycott of Jewish stores. He started to take privileges away from the people like the privilege of Jewish kids to go to public schools instead, they had to go to Jewish schools. Hitler also forbade the sale and consumption of kosher meat. They were also forbidden to vote and to have a passport as well as many other things. Chrystal Nach was a day many Jews will not forget. The Germans broke the glass of all Jewish homes, schools and businesses. Another change brought by Hitler was that every Jew had to have a Jewish name, if not they had to buy it. 1939 was the last year many Jewish children could go to school. Esther was sent to her first concentration camp at the age of 18 in 1942. They used to shave the middle part of the people’s heads, in order to recognize them if they tried to escaped. The Germans drove many Jews to and a few days later they were liberated by the Americans. For many people this was the happiest day of their lives. in Karolinenstra├če. Her father was the principal of an all Jewish girl school. Her mother was a physician. She was an only child. When Hitler came to power she was only 9 years old. By then, every Jewish person needed a Jewish name, but she was born as Esther Sarah, and Esther is not Jewish but Sarah was so she didn’t have to buy any names. In 1941, they were forced to move out of their apartment to a Jewish Apartment where only Jews lived. When she was 15 years old, that was the last year she could go to school, and after that she was forced to labor. So, at the age of 15 she worked in factories, and in 1942 when she was 18 she was sent to her first concentration camp. Six weeks later, after entering the concentration camp, her father died, but Esther and her mother stayed there two more years and then she was transported to Auschwitz, the most horrible camp of all. Two weeks after she was transported, and she went into a shower and they gave her new pair of clothes. While her mother was sent to Auschwitz, she was killed. They used to build airplanes for nine months, twelve hours a day, and the man in charge beat them with his belt and they had nothing to eat. After nine months, they ran out of raw materials for them to work with. They were put in an old coal car and for two weeks they drove them into Austria into a camp called Mautahousen, and after a few days they were liberated by the Americans. When she was liberated she worked for the Americans in the office and then she moved to NY. There, a girlfriend found her after the war and welcomed her. At the age of 24 she was married to a young man from the army. She was married for 46 years, but then he passed away. Now she is 86 years old and has a boyfriend. : I was going to start with kind of like your biography and family life before..

Esther: Ok I was born 86 years ago, Karolinenstrabe, is a city of about 2 million people and it had 20,000 Jews. And umm.. my father was the principal of the Jewish girl school. We had 600 Jewish girls. And my mother was a physician, but in WWI, that was in 1916 she was a Red Cross nurse.

Interviewer: and did you have any siblings?

Esther: No, I was an only child.

Interviewer: Okay, and did you, you lived in the center of town?

Esther: No, no we were, I would call it the center but umm.. how should I explain it? I mean it was in the city and we had a beautiful apartment with 1,2,3 five rooms, kitchen and maids room and the pantrys and two bedrooms.

Interviewer: Okay, so now, how old were you when you began to notice the difference because of..

Esther: Oh, I, I couldn’t understand you.

Interviewer: Oh, how old were you when you began to notice the differences in your life?

Esther: well I was 9 years old when Hitler came to power. And at first there was nothing different, but slowly things happened. There was a one day boycott of Jewish stores. Uh. Jews could no longer be civil servants. Kosher meat was forbidden to do. And Jewish students could on longer apply to go to public schools. They had to apply to go to Jewsih School.

Interviewer: Oh, so did a lot of people go to the Jewish Schools?

Esther: Yes well of course. You see originally… your Jewish right?

Interviewer: yes

Esther: But your not orthodox.

Interviewer: No, I’m not.

Esther: Well my father was very Orthodox and the school originally would only allow children who’s mother was Jewish, you always know who the mother is but you don’t always know who the father is. So the Jewish law states that Jews are only children born to a Jewish mother. But, Hitler changed all that, so my father had to accept also children who’s mothers were not Jewish if the father was Jewish.

Interviewer: Oh, okay. And did you ever have to move to the ghetto or did you..

Esther: Well that comes much later, this was 1933 when Hitler came to power I was nine years old. Things became much always worse, you now, Jews couldn’t vote anymore Jews couldn’t get a passport anymore. Jewish physicians could only work as nurses they they were not allowed to work as doctors anymore. And my mother was a doctor but here she became a nurse again and she had to take care of old people at night. But eh, then every Jewish person needed a Jewish first name. Now, I was born Esther Sarah, and Esther is not a Jewish name but Sarah is people had to buy their name. Like my mothers name was Marie Anna and she was then Marie Anna Sarah Jonas and she had to buy that Sarah. But I was born Sarah and I didn’t have to buy anything. Men had to take the name Israel. My father’s name was believe it or not, Alberto..

Interviewer: Oh, that’s my grandfathers name

Esther: Yea (laughs). Well my father was then Alberto Israel Jonas. By the way Jonas, like the Jonas Brothers. So because..

Interviewer: ok and um, so then later on in your life after, when you were older, were you ever taken to the concentration camps.

Esther: Let us go back. When I was 15, that was the last year I could go to school after that I had to do forced labor. I was in a factory at 15 and when I was 18 we were sent to the first concentration camp.

Interviewer: Oh, and what year was that when you were 18?

Esther: That was in the year 1942. I was born in 1924. I was 18 and there was my father my mother and me and we got a letter saying, oh by the way, we had to leave our nice apartment the year before and move a so called Jewish Apartment where only Jews lived.

Interviewer: Okay, so while you were working in the factory you had to live in the “Jewish Apartment”?

Esther: Right. And then we got this letter that said we had to be ready and take one suitcase and leave everything else behind.

Interviewer: and while you were in the process did you get to stay with your mother and father?

Esther: Well at first yes, but in, when we came into the camp and then form one minute to the next we were prisioners right? And my father was told on the station to the camp that he would have his school back, his school had been closed of course, and that he would have his school again and he would see how nice it was there. And the next day my father had to shovel coal, and he was not a physically tyrant man, and he was not able to do that and he died six weeks later.

Interviewer: Oh, I’m so sorry.

Esther: (laughs) Yea. And eh, but my mother and I stayed in this camp for two years. I was sent you know one of the terrors was that people came into the camp and people were transported out of the camp. And two years later I was transported to Auschwitz and that the was the most horrible camp of all.

Interviewer: And do you have any stories or experiences that you particularly remember from that camp?

Esther: Well, it’s very hard to explain that camp in a few words but, was were the had the gas chamber and at night they always took people from the barracks and drove them on their truck to the to the gas chamber. And in front of the gas chamber was an orchestra of Jewish people who had to play beautiful music while these people went into, they thought they were going into the shower and gas came out and they were killed that way.

Interviewer: Oh yeah, we learned about that.

Esther: Yes, and I was lucky because after two weeks I was transported, I mean we went into the shower and we were, this is the end and but it wasn’t. And water came out and they gave us very thing clothing. Eh. Just a pair of underpants, a thin coat wooden shoes, no socks, no stockings no handkerchief. And it was cold, and nothing they shaved off our hair and it was cold and cold and it was raining on us and snowing on us. It was horrible, and we were sent back to Germany to build airplanes. And for nine months we built airplanes. And for nine months. And meanwhile my mother was sent to Auschwitz and she was killed.

Interviewer: Oh, I’m sorry.

Esther: Yeah. And eh, while we built airplanes for nine months twelve hours a day. And the man in charge beat us with his belt and there was nothing to eat. It was just horrible. We ate the grass we were so terribly hungry. We came out imagine, and we had nothing. No toilet paper, no soap, toothbrush, no lipstick no cream on the face no scissors no, I mean no change of clothing. For nine months we wore the same clothes. And you always had two girls to one straw sack and there were bed bugs. And eh fleas and lice and it was horrible, just horrible.

Interviewer: and the pieces of airplane that you built, were those used for the military planes?

Esther: Sorry, I can’t, I have trouble understanding you.

Interviewer: Oh, that the pieces of plane you were building, were they used for the military?

Esther: For military? I don’t know, they were smaller planes. I don’t know what they were for. Probably also for the war.

Interviewer: Oh, okay and what happened after the airplanes, did you, was that when the American soldiers liberated…

Esther: Yes, well, we were there for nine months and as I said they didn’t have anymore raw material for us to work with. And they put is on old coal car and for two weeks they drove us, we were 1,000 woman. All Jewish. 500 from Poland, 400 from CS*.but all Jews and all woman. Lets say from the age of 18-50, 60. And they drove us into Austria for two weeks we were on the road, hardly anything to eat.And we came to a camp in Austria called Mautahousen, which is in Austria. And luckily, in a few days we were liberated by the Americans.

Interviewer: How did you feel when you were liberated?

Esther: Ach, it was the happiest day of my life!

Interviewer: and what did you do after you were liberated?

Esther: Well, you see you could not just go back to your home town because there were no trains left. Eh, eh, so I stayed there and I worked for the Americans in the office. I offered my services there. I took five years of English in school and I learned it again from the GI’s then. I helped them in the office. And if they needed something in German I could help them. And not for money, just to pass the time. And, and eh, then eh, the Russians took over the camp and we did not want to stay with the Russians. So some girlfriends and I, we went to the next American occupied city call Linv. L-I-N-V. and eh, there I worked and for the American Government, for money. And one day a former friend of mine from Hambrough* heard that I was liberated from Austria and he was able to come back and pick me up and took me back to Hambourgh.

Interviewer: Oh, that’s nice. (: So when did you move to the


Esther: In 1946.

Interviewer: and where did you first go? What city did you go to?

Esther: Well, I’ve always been in NY. I had a girlfriend who found me after the war, not physically, but by letter. She said I could stay with her family in NY, if I went there, for as long as I wanted to. So she picked me up from the boat and we went home to her parents and we had a wonderful diner and after diner she said: Would you like some ice cream? And I so: Oh yes!, but they were kosher, so you couldn’t have ice cream in the house. We went out to an ice cream parlor. And in walked two young men. One was her boy friend , who I didn’t know. And one was a study from the army. And he asked me right away: Are you the girl that just came from, I was 22 by then. And I said : yes. And then I married two years later and I was married for 46 years. And I have one son Larry, who you know or you know of and two grandchildren. But my husband died 15 years ago but I have a boyfriend! (laughs)