tv Surviving the Holocaust in Amsterdam CSPAN August 16, 2016 3:19pm-4:16pm EDT
netherlands. louise celebrated her second and third birthdays in an amsterdam apartment hidden in plain sight using false identification papers acquired by her father. she discusses how her family coped with life in hiding and how it has affected her since. this event was part of the united states holocaust memorial museum's first person series, it's a little under an hour. >> so, again, our speaker this morning is louise lawrence israels and to give you a historical context for her experiences we've prepared a brief audio-visual introduction and some images. so we are looking at a map of europe and louise was born in harlem, not the american one but the dutch one in the netherlands
and she was born there in 1942. there we go. there are the netherlands. and the pointer is now pointing to the city of amsterdam, the capital of the netherlands. this is where louise and her family went into hiding until the very end of the war. this is my favorite one, though. there is a picture of louise when she was one year old, she was cute then, she's still cute now. this is louise with her favorite doll, her brother's little pull toy and one of the chairs that she had as a gift for her second birthday. that chair is now in the possession of the united states holocaust memorial museum and it's been occasionally on exhibit thanks to louise. louise spent her second birthday in hiding with her parents and they celebrated her birthday during their time in hiding
thanks to some of their -- their friends and reserve officers from the outside. so this is louise's apartment building and you can see the arrow pointing to the attic apartment where her family hid during the war years, and following louise's birthday, that picture that we just saw, that little family of louise's would spend an additional year in hiding almost until their liberation by canadian forces in may of 1945. louise lawrence-israels' story is one of a mosaic of histories experienced by holocaust survivors and today she will share that story with us, please join me in welcoming louise lawrence israels. [ applause ] s >> thank you with being with us
today. >> my pleasure. >> maybe we can start by what your family did, the family experiences you had before the war started. at that point you weren't born yet, but what did your family do, where did they live, how did they live before the german invasion of the netherlands. >> my parents got married just before the nazis invaded holland, so they got married in 1940 and i have a brother who was born in november 1940. my father was in business with his dad, they had a textile firm where they manufactured clothing and then they had a chain of stores where they sold the clothing. we are jewish. our whole family is jewish. but they weren't very religious, that wasn't the most important
thing in their daily life. in 1939 when poland invaded -- sorry, the nazis invaded poland the dutch army mobilized, so every capable man above the age of 18 had to go and serve. the dutch army was really in shambles. we hadn't participated in the first world war, so my dad was a reserve officer but he said uniforms were hard boiled wool that he couldn't even move his arms. >> stretch. >> but in the meantime they trained for a possible invasion, but they never expected. the germans were our friends, we gave domicile to the german kaiser after the first world war and why would you invade a friendly country? >> right. >> but they did, and probably because they wanted to have the city of rotterdam. it was easier to have are the ships there and then to invade the rest of the world.
but when they came into holland on may 10th, 1940, my father's engineering battalion was ready in the southern part of holland and they were ready to blow up the bridges over the river and of course the german army was so prepared with their boats and my father was taken prisoner of war. >> when he was taken prisoner of war did the fact that he was drafted, the fact that he served in the dutch army, this did not really save him from the threat of deportation. what happened to your dad when he was captured? >> he was with his whole group, they were a prisoner of war, and after holland capitulated because they only fought for four days, a couple of weeks after that they led all the dutch officers go back to holland. we became part of germany, of the third reich. so my parents settled in the town of harlem and with my little brother. the threat against jews wasn't
there yet so my father just lived there. >> right. but very early on there came some anti-jewish legislation. the german occupation put on essentially the laws that had been already enforced in the third reich so there was persecution shortly afterwards, is that correct? >> right. that's correct. so all the things that everybody will see when you go through the museum like jewish children were not allowed to be educated in a regular school, if you were sick you could only go to a jewish hospital, you could only be treated by jewish doctors, you couldn't walk through parks. and in my case or my family's case our business was confiscated because it was a jewish business. >> right. but very early on, if i remember your story correctly, your family had a very traumatic experience in harlem and that had to do with the president of
the jewish community there and his family who were your neighbors. >> right. right. that was in 1942. and everybody got organized in that time. the occupying nazis were ready. they had their trains prepared to go to stuff jews in to to go to the death camps in poland. but also our resistance. and a lot of those were some of those soldiers that had been taken prisoner of war had joined the resistance, that's how my father knew them, and they got very organized. now, i have to backtrack because our neighbors across the street were very religious jews, it was a very large family, the father was president, like you said, of the jewish community in harlem, but they had seven children, all the ages of my parents, around 30. a couple of them were engaged but nobody was married yet. one set of grandparents and two unmarried aunts, everybody lived in that house. so in 1942 after the order came that everybody above the age of 6 -- this is just for holland -- had to wear a star.
we got orders to move to amsterdam and the resistance blew up registration offices to make it harder for nazis to find where jews lived. as a punishment for blowing up the registration office in the town of harlem where we lived they took the ten most prominent jewish men, marched them on to the times square and shot them in front of the population and with them was our neighbor across the street as president and the two rabbis and two canters. >> so what happened then with that family? >> none of them were able to work anymore because they were jews and one of the daughters was my mom's age, her name was selma, and she really became good friends with my mom and she helped my mom take care of my brother and myself. i was by that time almost 6
months old. a couple of days after selma's dad was shot, selma was in our house and saw from my bedroom window right across the street, she was looking at her house, she saw a large truck pull up in front of her house and people jumped off with a lot of screaming, kicked in her door and rounded up everybody in that house. the truck drove away and except for one brother who later escaped she never saw the rest of her family again. >> right. >> so that was so scary, that was such a shock that that same night we moved to amsterdam, but we had no place to really live yet, so we moved into temporarily with one of my father's military friends that was also in the resistance and my father went out to look for a hiding place.
>> right. and so did he continue -- he couldn't continue his business in amsterdam. what was he doing there? >> in harlem -- so the business was confiscated early. >> in harlem. >> in 1940. that was in amsterdam. then in harlem temporary he found a job as a pants presser in a small jewish dry cleaning place, a little basement. so i tell you to compare, so my father was a spoiled man, he had a doctorate in economics, he was being sent to the united states to do an internship here for two years, he came back, he got a corner office from his father and he kind of ran the business, really spoiled man, then he became a pants presser. so i couldn't ask him questions for many, many years because my parents didn't want to talk about the war. so just before he passed away, about 17 years ago, i said, how did that make you feel? because i heard from my friend selma that he had been doing that.
he said actually i went to work singing and he had to walk five miles because his bicycle was confiscated and jews were not allowed to use public transportation. he said i came back singing he said i was happy because everything is relative. and you have to feed your family so i made some money every week. not much but just enough to buy bread and milk so it made him happy. >> all this time he was making elaborate arrangements to bring you and your brother and his mother and his parents -- is it -- >> my father's parents. yes. >> into hiding. can you talk about that? >> right. he made the elaborate plans after we moved to amsterdam. it's kind of a silly thing that i was always wondering growing up why didn't he do it before, but they didn't know how long this would last. >> right. >> it was always maybe it will be over tomorrow but then of course it wasn't over tomorrow and he found this hiding place that saved us. it was a four-story walk up, it
was a storage attic with nothing much in it except a table and chairs and a cup board and some other dusty boxes, but it was across the street from the main park in amsterdam and he figured he would have to go out at night, make contact with the resistance, try to get some food for us and that way he wouldn't have neighbors across the street that could see the strange man coming out of the house in the dark. he had also asked some of the people that he worked with, he had a textile firm so they worked with bolts and bolts of fabric and he had asked some of the people if they could take as many bolts out as possible. he figured that would be something that he could barter with. so when there was no more income he could trade a couple of yards of fabric for a couple of slices of bread. and he also used that fabric
when we got into the attic to make makeshift rooms. walls, actually, so that everybody had a little bit of privacy. >> and he paid a lot of rent, right, for the apartment? >> he paid rent for ten years. so that he didn't have to go out when the rent was due, maybe it would be too dangerous, he didn't know how long it would last. >> right. and so when you went into hiding what time was that? and so what time frame was that and how many people went into hiding with you? >> okay. so initially it was my father and my mother, my brother and myself, our friend selma who stayed with us because her parents were already rounded up and she had no idea where they were, but it was no good, she knew that. and then my father's parents temporarily. >> right. >> and i always say that you can move in into hiding with a moving truck so i really thought about the bare necessities. we took mattresses for the
adults, a crib for me since i was only 6 months old. there was no kitchen there so my mom took a camping stove, some oil lamps. everything burned on oil and pots and pans and utensils. we only had a small toilet there that was already there and a small sink with cold running water. that was it. >> right. and you were very young at this time. what did your parents tell you about -- do you remember some of the things that happened when you were in hiding there? >> right. well, there were two things. my parents were amazing thinking about that now and a couple of years ago. when you are in the middle of it you think -- you take everything for granted. my parents did everything they could to shield us, to save us and to shield us. that was the most important thing for them. so they never talked about the outside world. they never told us what was
going on and they never told us how scared they were. my father's parents only stayed with us a very short time, so somebody from the resistance picked them up and found another hiding place for them, but they had no idea where anybody was, but they didn't share that with us. they thought if we didn't know then we wouldn't miss it. also they never talked about the outside world. if my mom had said on a nice sunny day -- and we had only a tiny little dormer window. if she had said it is a beautiful day and we live across the street from the park, i wish i could take you children out so you could play, we would have missed it. but by not talking about it, every day was normal for us. not for them, but for us. but they had to keep us busy. >> right. >> do you want me to talk about that? >> yeah. did your parents do things with you? what did they do with you to keep you busy, to keep you engaged? >> right. so my brother had been allowed to take in -- take with him one toy that was his favorite toy
this little pull horse and my father took in a lot of scrap paper and colored pencils. so i saw crawling around when we just went into hiding i saw my father and my mother, selma and my brother sit around a table. mom and selma were always sewing, but they were talking to my brother and it looked like they were having a lot of fun, so i -- as soon as i was an early talker and early walker, so as soon as i could talk i said can i sit with you? so i was talking so much that my father finally said you can sit with us, but you have to listen, you can't talk anymore. sit there and listen. okay. at least i can sit there. so what they were doing with my brother, they were doing colors and they were doing games with colors. then they were teaching him numbers, very simple arithmetic all in play form and then letters and words. so it was a form of so it was a
form of home schooling. i loved it. i wanted to participate. it's funny because if you say a bird is brown, okay, then what is a bird? my mom could draw very well so she would draw a bird but she wouldn't say birds are flying outside and sitting in trees because that would kind of make us wonder what are outside and what are trees, but we would know what a bird was, we would know what a flower was and it was always color so it was playing. they home schooled us really from early morning to when we went to bed because that's how they kept us busy. so when we were finally liberated, i was almost 3 and i could read. and it's not because i'm smart, you are all much smarter than i am, but it's just it's repetition. we did not have electronics, we did not have television, we didn't have any other toys. >> or a radio, right?
>> no radio. nothing. this was it. >> right. so how did you -- just so it's clear for our audience -- how did you survive that time? sometimes your father went out? >> right. >> he also had contacts? >> food was very scarce and we were very often hungry. >> even for the dutch population. >> for all the dutch people. you're absolutely right. because the occupying nazis and the collaborators took all the good stuff. the nazis sent it to germany for their family and the collaborators feasted on it and everything was rationed for everybody. of course we didn't have ration cards as soon as we went into hiding but the resistance was unbelievable. and without that i wouldn't be sitting here today. if there was nothing in the morning my mom on her camping stove would boil water and we would get a bowl of warm water. that settles your stomach and takes your hunger pangs away to start with. but we as children got something every day. just before we went to bed so we didn't have to go to bed hungry.
sometimes it wasn't more than sharing half a cracker. my parents always had some emergency food, but it was always for the children first. and they went hungry for many days. >> can you tell us about a happy occasion that happened there, your birthday? >> right. so my father always had this worried look, so did my mom and so did selma. we didn't know that. we thought that was perfectly normal, whatever they looked like, but then my father went out again to make contact with somebody from the resistance and it was very important besides food and medicine to bring home news. we had no newspapers, there was no way to get any news and news would give you hope. so he came home and he looked differently and my brother picked up on that said, what happened, papa, you went outside and you look different. i guess my father looked happier, my brother saw it, i didn't. but he said i have good news, the allied army has landed in normandy and maybe it will be
over soon. >> you were born in july. >> right. >> so that was -- >> so this was june. so my father wanted to make it a special day and they picked my birthday, my second birthday to do that. now, if you plan -- if you forget your best friend's birthday this morning you can still plan a nice party at night, right, it's easy, you have everything, you have your cellphone, your internet, you have -- corner bakery. not when you are in hiding. so it took a lot of planning and help from the people in the resistance that helped us. >> and they made a cake? >> my father made a cake and baked it on top of a camping stove because we didn't have an oven. my mom cut up an old blouse and made a beautiful birthday dress for me. selma out of old rags made a doll. my first doll. and my brother wrapped his only toy for me. i had been watching that for years but i had never been able to touch it. i could just look at it.
it was his toy, but he was going to give it to my for my birthday. >> for one day. >> except when he gave it to me he said it's just for the day, i want it back tonight. it didn't matter, i was very happy. >> and your chair. >> someone from the resistance knew about the plans because he had given my father ingredients for the cake, he said she's getting her first doll and he gave this tiny little wicker doll's chair that was already an antique, it was 150 years old. when i got it i was so happy i sat in it. i was so little that i sat in the chair and i held the doll in my arms. >> and that's the picture that we saw. >> that's correct. >> at the beginning. >> and that picture, if i can add something, that's a tribute to my parents because what you saw in the picture is a perfectly happy 2-year-old. not any different than any of your siblings or cousins that turned 2 years old. because my parents wanted us to be happy children. since we didn't know the difference between the outside and the inside, we actually were happy children.
>> it's a beautiful thing that your parents did for you in this very scary situation for them. >> right. >> potentially deadly situation. >> right. >> and many people when they think of hidden children they think of ann frank who was not very far from you, about five blocks from where you were hiding. >> right. >> but in a very different context. for one thing happily you are alive and with us today. >> right. >> but secondly you weren't hiding in a secret annex. you were sort of hiding in plain sight in that attic building. >> correct. >> what did your neighbors think? did they suspect you were there? >> we were lucky we had our own walk-up. it's a little different setup in that row of houses that every floor has its own front door and it's own set of stairs. so we never -- my father going downstairs never met anybody and that probably saved him. we had neighbors below us that must have heard us walk, flush
the toilet. they never said anything. so people can say, well, there were -- they heard people up there, but maybe they weren't interested in you. for us that was a lucky thing. it was much better that help came from afar. if they had known us, if they had befriended us or even helped us, if a nazi or a collaborator had rang the doorbell or saw them on the street and had asked is there anybody living upstairs, they would have had to lie and when you lie, you know -- or they would have seen it that it was a lie when they said no. since they didn't know us at all they could say, well, we don't know. >> right. >> so it's just a storage attic. so it was better for us. but afterwards, this is hindsight, i would say they probably were very good dutch people. they knew that people were there in clandestine and they never said a word. >> never said a word. right. toward the end of your time in
hiding there was a round-up of dutch jewish officers and your father didn't show up for that head count. >> actually, it was a head count for all officers. >> for all officers. >> since my father could not go out without a star it was after the invasion of the allied army and i guess the nazis got pretty jittery, especially the army, so they just said we have a head count and my father was told by some of his army buddies that there was a head count and it was closer to central station, the train station. so my father said i'm not going. i have a star that i have to wear, even though he had fake identity papers, but still. he said i will never make it. so he didn't go and he was right. there was a head count and everybody was pushed on to a train and they were sent back to germany for the rest of the
duration, the next eight months until liberation. to my knowledge not one jewish officer came back. so he didn't go, what was not a good thing for the dutch army after we were liberated because when we were liberated my father was picked up for conduct unbecoming an officer and thrown in jail by the dutch army. >> right. >> but that only lasted three days and they reinstated him, but it took a lot of explaining. >> right. exactly. but there was a time when your father was actually arrested and he had a lucky break to get away from the nazi authorities. >> right. i think we were denounced. we all had fake identity papers, my name was maria, i didn't even know my name was louise. a nazi officer came in with a dutch collaborator with a lot of screaming. my brother and i kind of hid in a corner, holding on to each
other for dear life, he was scared. we never heard anybody scream at us. and they did ask us what our real names were and we didn't know our real names so we told the names that were on the fake identity papers. but they didn't like my father's papers. it wasn't always the perfect fake identity paper at that time. and they took him. it was towards the end of the war, of our occupation, and there were no more trains going east, our real tracks had been bombed. and so he was thrown in a makeshift prison in the middle of amsterdam. it was a school. one night he tried his door and the door was open and then he walked in the hallway and walked all the way to the front door and that was open and he walked home. they weren't organized anymore. if the people that had picked him up told the people in the jail, you know, he lives there and there and he's from there and there, they would have come looking for him, but he came home. a couple of times something like
that happened so we were very, very lucky. >> very lucky. >> yes. >> you had bombings in amsterdam towards the end of the war. >> yeah. >> and that was difficult for you because you couldn't go to the shelter. >> that's correct. and there were bombers actually flying over holland, stray bombs that fell off, so we had air raid alarms telling you that a bomber was approaching and my dad knew that the strongest part of the -- an amsterdam row house was the staircase. we had a routine, the air raid alarm sounds, my brother and i holding on to each other for dear life would walk to the door, my father would open the door, check the stairwell, motion to us and we would sit on top of the stairs, my mom would have an emergency basket, selma would always have blankets or something just in case something happened and the all clear alarm would sound and we would tip toe back into the attic. that happened sometimes 15, 20 times day or night and we just did it because we never talked back to our parents. whatever they told us, whatever the routine was, that was fine
with us. >> right. so do you remember the time around the liberation? >> yes. we had a strange thing happen. the liberating army liberated the southern part of holland and couldn't cross the rivers because we had an early onset of severe winter. so we were closed off and had eight months of what we called hunger winter. >> right. >> but just before that happened my father traded a lot of his fabric, a lot of stuff for butter, sugar and flower and he baked cookies, his emergency food, he said. very nutritious with so much butter in it. >> and tasty. >> yeah, i guess so, but that's what we lived off. so on may 5th, 1945, there was so much ruckus, so much noise on the street that my father took a chair and climbed on it and
looked out of the window. >> something he never did. >> he never did, it was a first for us and he opened the window and leaned out and he looked back at us and he said to us, i think it's over. i think we're free. because people are waving dutch flags, but he was so hungry at that time that he ran to the cupboard and we had miraculously left one tin of cookies, he stuffed his face and put the rest of the tin on the table and said, you can all take as much as you want. because he knew as soon as liberation came food would get through, trickling, not very much, but it would be evenly distributed. so my first meal was oatmeal. i didn't like it. i didn't like the consistency of oatmeal, but my parents gave it to us and we never said no so i ate it.
through my upbringing years in holland with my parents we had a lot of oatmeal and i never liked it, but i ate it because i didn't dare -- i didn't know how to say that i didn't like it. so my mom passed away a little over three years ago and just before she passed away i had said i have to tell you one thing. i disliked that oatmeal. so she said why didn't you tell me? i never make oatmeal for my children or grandchildren. i still don't like it. >> never oatmeal. >> no. >> but there is this moving time about when you went outside for the first time. can you tell us and tell us a little bit about the canadian soldiers because they are the liberators of the dutch. >> exactly and i am always grateful to them. >> tell us about that. >> so after my father -- my brother said when he was eating cookies when we were allowed to take a whole cookie he said being free means eating cookies. yeah. so my parents explained, they told us what our real names were and like i said we never talked back so from maria i became
louisa. and they waited a couple of days because they wanted to make sure that everything is okay. they said we're going outside, we're going to the park, and and we are going to play outside. we didn't know what that was. so you have to imagine these two kids in rags without shoes, we had like canvas booties that mom and selma made for us, we're walking down four flights of stairs following my dad, that was a first, holding on for dear life and my father opened the front door and all of a sudden we only had inside -- we had this window that didn't give much light but the front door opens and there is all this light, there are no trees, people have chopped down trees to heat their houses so all this light streams in and there are no more walls so we are really scared to death. they take us to the park, put us on an open field and said, you are free now. go play. so i mimicked everything my
brother did. and he started crying so i started crying and he actually said, if this is what it means to be free, i don't want to be free. so my parents took us back upstairs, my mom was crying by that time, she had no idea what happened to any of her relatives or friends because no news came yet, but her children were free and they didn't like to be free. so they took us back upstairs, explained some more, have some more oatmeal, and then a couple days later they said we will take you out and we're going for a walk. it was a beautiful spring, all dutch people, everybody in rags because everybody had gone through five years of occupation. so everybody is walking around, families, people by themselves, it's just great to be outside and all canadian soldiers that loved to look to amsterdam because it was so -- it's such a beautiful city and they also liked to speak to the people that they had liberated especially children.
when they started talking to us we didn't know what they were saying, but they did something much better, they pulled hershey bars out of their pockets. they gave us each a hershey bar and we were allowed to eat it. two mouthfuls, we were full because our stomachs were so little and we took the rest of the hershey bar home. next morning something strange happened, we wake up, my brother jumps off his mattress and screams through the attic, can we go outside again? so my parents, what is this? kids cry, they don't want to go outside, they're scared, now he wants to go outside again, he wanted more hershey bars. children are resilient. >> that's freedom. >> right. >> hershey bars. so what was your life like in the immediate postwar? because that wasn't an easy time. people tend to think when the holocaust is over everything is a smooth and easy road but it's very difficult for a lot of survivors. what was it like?
>> it was actually difficult for all dutch people because we had nothing. the whole country had been raided, there was nothing in the stores. there was absolutely nothing. so we had to rebuild. my parents decided a couple of things, they were not going to talk about our years of occupation and what happened to our family because only my dad's parents survived, but they figured not talking about the other relatives we didn't know them. they were already in hiding or gone by the time we were growing up in that attic. so they didn't want to talk about it, but it was hard because i wanted to ask questions, but i was lucky with my friend selma, i spent a lot of summers with her, i was able to ask her the questions that i couldn't ask my parents. no religion. they thought being jewish was dangerous and they thought that
all their lives that something would happen again so they didn't want to have anything to do with it. my name was louise israelis so you can imagine it's strange knowing the whole religious thing, but i missed that, too. so on my own when i was 15 i contacted a rabbi. i wanted to know about it and how did i know that i actually was jewish? when i was nine a couple of things happened. i went to a birthday party and there were four grandparents. so i came home and i said to my mom, i said, there are four grandparents there. did they pick up two from the street? because i thought it was normal to have only two. and so she had to explain. so that was the first touch that i realized that there were relatives, my mom called that they hadn't come back. she never said that they were murdered or sent to a camp, they never came back. came back from what? but i didn't want to ask. >> you didn't know that the holocaust occurred. >> nobody talked. rebuild the country and don't talk, don't dwell on what happened. the other thing is that my brother and i walked to the post
office to mail a letter and it was around christmastime and somebody stopped us and said do you have a christmas tree in your house? we didn't know what that was. she said, oh, good, you probably don't have one, you shouldn't have one, you're jewish. we came home again. today you would say to your mother, am i from outer space, am i jewish? we didn't know what it was. she waited for my dad to come home and she had to explain that. >> you went to denmark for a time, is that right? >> sweden. >> i knew it was a scandinavian country. >> there was no job for my dad so we lived there for two years, and then we came back to holland. >> how is it that you came to the united states? how is that? >> okay. >> that's a nice story. >> that is not holocaust related. >> no. >> i did all my schooling in holland and became a physical
therapist and my husband was an american medical student in amsterdam. we met, we fell in love, we got married, but he still had to finish all his studies so i helped him put him through school and the day he did his last exam our first daughter was born and five weeks later we came here in 1967. >> so you were still a physical therapist and you worked as a physical therapist here in the states. >> for a while, yes. >> yes. do you want to tell us about your family? >> yes, i have three wonderful daughters and we have six grandchildren and so you see terrible things can happen to you, but you can get lucky with parents like i did, i have, and also very lucky with finding a wonderful husband and starting a wonderful family. >> and is there anything you want to talk about how your experience shaped the way you thought for a long time? >> yes. my parents i told you -- >> i know it's an interesting story so i thought the audience might want to hear it. >> right. it's a time of my life i'm not
very proud of and i'm sharing it with you because i'm hoping you are not going to repeat what i did. you can repeat what i said but not what i did. my parents brought us up with a lot of hatred towards anything german, and it wasn't just my parents, it was all the dutch people. >> yeah. >> i heard people say that the dutch people hated germans more than the germans hated jews. now, that's a big statement. it was really unbelievable. so we had derogatory words that we used and we hated everything german. my parents emphasized that even more. so that's how i grew up and that's how i lived. if a german tourist would ask me where is the anne frank house and anne frank house was there i would tell them to go that way and i would think that was funny. then when we got married and had
children i continued with this terrible hatred. you wonder why didn't your husband stop you. my husband knows how to pick his battles. if he had said anything about my parents we wouldn't have been married 51 years. but there came a time, my husband was in the military, american military, and we were stationed in nato headquarters in belgium and our nine-year-old daughter rang the doorbell off -- they have duplex housing on the base, in one part lived the president of the jewish community and i brought -- we brought up our children with religion, you know, contrary to what my parents did, and she rang the doorbell and said do you have this german family living next to you, they hate jews and one day they will kill you. so when i was told that i thought -- and i was in my 30s, i cannot imagine that i kept this going so long.
>> it would have been the '60s or '50s? >> naomi was born in '69 so that was already -- >> '70s. >> yeah. so i realized that it was not her fault for saying nasty things, it was my fault. and my husband and i talked and we got some professional help and we were able to turn it around. so my big thing is hatred gets you nowhere, it gets you a holocaust. so we stopped. two of our children were married to american servicemen, stationed in germany, speak german, have german friends. i think we were just in time. and today i think a much judger generation, you can't keep on hating and you can't keep on blaming. >> i think that's a good point to stop and maybe open the door to all of you for questions. you're going to see on both
sides of the podium i think you have microphones here. i'm going to put on my glasses so i don't call one of you sir when you are a ma'am. there we go. we have microphones there and our wonderful colleagues are moving down to them. does somebody want to come and ask a question for louise? yes, ma'am. >> what was your reaction when your parents told you your real name? >> i will repeat the question. we have a young lady here in the front and she said what was your reaction when you learned your real name? >> it's a good question, but whatever my parents told us, if you can compare it today that was the law. we had never learned to say anything against what they told us. we took everything they said for
granted and i lived like that all through my married life until my parents passed away. i never went against them. so when they told me my name was louise. okay. >> that's why i called you maria instead of louise when i introduced you. see, i knew that. >> that's all right. >> are there other questions? yes, ma'am. can you run that -- perfect. thank you. perfect. there we go. >> thank you very much to start with, we really appreciate you sharing today. can you tell us a little about your brother and maybe a little bit more about his journey and where he is now? >> okay. my brother lives in amsterdam and he doesn't talk about what happened. his family is not jewish. and when we are together we talk, but that's about all he wants to talk about it. he just -- maybe he does a similar thing to my parents.
he does still use derogatory words for germans, but he doesn't want to talk about it. he was a very successful oncologist, his patients loved him, he is a very nice person, but this is something that he doesn't want to talk about. for many years he actually blamed my parents for his first years of life. he saw his own children grow up, his grandchildren grow up and said look at all this freedom, look how they always crawled in the sand and played outside. i never had that. but then my reaction is that but look at all the love that we had. i don't think we missed out on a lot. >> and you actually had siblings that were born after? >> yes. since we had so many relatives that were murdered, my parents decided that they still wanted a table full of people and i have three more siblings after the war. i'm one of five, two generations and one family.
my brother and myself are the war kids, then i have a sister and two brothers. >> were they all interested in what happened to your parents? >> very little. i kept occasion ideally i got questions. when they ask me what i do, because i volunteer at this wonderful, incredible institution and museum, and they ask me what i do. my oldest brother says why rehash this stuff? i think it's important that you guys know what happened. i'm only a tiny, tiny piece of the puzzle. but you hear other people talk, you can put it together, you know, get a full idea of what happened. >> other questions? yes, ma'am, if you could step over here, shy to get to the microphone. there you go. and the young lady behind you after you. perfect. thank you. >> i want to thank miss louise for sharing your story with us. it is very compelling. but i'd like to ask the question is that you said that you had
learned hatred because of the things you heard your parents say, but you said that as you got older, you and your husband realized you needed professional help. can you tell me the one thing through your counseling that you got that helped you to start healing from that atrocities that had happened to you? >> okay. i don't think there is ever a healing. but i needed to make sure that our children live free without hatred. and that's why we got the help. and when i saw that that worked, and we were really a very happy family together, the five of us, my husband and myself and the three children. but i saw that that worked, i calmed down. and i started realizing the other side, like, how loveable
my parents were, and then i realized when i moved to this area in 1993, the museum had just opened, maybe i needed to do something more. so people ask, is it difficult for you to talk? no, i think it is important that people know because you can go home and if you meet somebody that says, it never happened, you can actually say, well, we went to the holocaust museum in washington and i saw somebody who lived through it. so you say it doesn't happen, you're a liar. it did happen. so for me, that's important. and when we're not here anymore to talk, then there is this museum. and they have all our stories and they have everything and they will continue. and it is important that people know that it really happened. that's the only way you learn. >> thank you. >> there was a young lady behind. >> excuse me.
>> ma'am? okay. yes. please come down to the microphone. sorry, i can't see you very well. there you go. thank you, gabrielle. >> when you were liberated and you went to the park, did you see any other families there and if so what were they doing? >> when we went to the park, i don't think we looked for anybody else. we were too scared. but then the second time we went out and we got to hershey bars, we saw that every street was full because it was so beautiful, everybody was walking outside. and that was -- so i told you in the beginning that i could read at the end when we were liberated. but i didn't know how to socialize. that was hard in the beginning. i had to learn that. i only knew my brother, and selma and my parents. so seeing other people was very strange. but children are resilient.
and when we -- my mom rented a place in the country, because she wanted a place -- a room with a kitchen and a kitchenette and bathroom. because she wanted us to be outside and she put us an soon as she could in schools. i went to nursery school and my brother went to first grade. it was a learning curve to be with other children. but it was wonderful when i finally got used to that. >> yes. >> yes, i was just thinking about president jackson signing the indian removal act of 1830 where indians were literally rounded up and put on to reservations, if not murdered. then the slave trade, the american slave trade. and then the japanese internments in world war ii and today muslim and mexicans being persecuted. why do you think persecution of an entire culture is so readily accepted here?
>> do you want to answer that? >> that's a hard question. i think it is a part of human nature to -- >> to pick on minorities. >> to pick on minorities, to pick on the unknown, the other. and the best way to combat that is exactly what louise is doing, and what the museum is doing and other museums here on the mall. that's educating, especially young people, about how insidious hatred and prejudice is. and i'm particularly proud of our survivor volunteers because every one of them has that kind of message for our audiences. i'm sure we're going to hear something about that in just a second. but i think, you know, it keeps happening, right. they say never again with the holocaust and yet genocide is part of the human condition, it has been, it is continuing in the present.
genocide today in syria, according to our center for the prevention of genocide here at the museum. we have a center on genocide here because it is still happening. and it is our job really to work on that. not just to remember the holocaust, but to prevent those genocides from happening. so thank you very much. and i think with that, i want to thank you all for coming. and i want you to remind you that we have the first person program every wednesday and thursday into the middle of august. please check for our webcast for past shows and shows that are coming on. and i'm going to turn the floor over to louise for a moment, but first i want to tell you about a little audience participation we're planning for the end of our program today. we're going to ask, after louise has her last say, look for the closure for the program, we're going to ask you all to stand
and our wonderful photographer joe is going to take a picture of all of you with louise standing behind her and you'll all have a moment for a photo-op with louise. so -- but, the tradition at first person is to turn over, give the last floor to our survivor, to our survivor guest, and impart some last words of wisdom for us. >> i'll try. during the holocaust, approximately 12 million people were brutally murdered. out of the 12 million were 6 million jews, and from the 6 million jews were 1.5 million jewish children, each just birth to about 15 years old. they were innocent children that had never done anything wrong. but they were persecuted and murdered because they were jewish. so the holocaust was genocide. you just heard from patricia. but it never stopped. like the world did not learn.
in the late '70s was cambodia. in 1992 was bosnia. in 1994, rwanda. look today the mess we have in the middle east. people are murdered, not because they're criminals, but because they might believe different. they might have a different religion. they might have a different skin color. that's why they're murdered. so my -- and i'm aware of it and i'm sure you're aware of it because you're here. but my message would be that everybody knows about a bully in the neighborhood, in the school, in the neighborhood. and a bully, as you all know, he or she wants to get away with terrible things. in my opinion, hitler was the worst bully that ever walked the earth. and people are afraid of a
bully. my advice is, don't be afraid of a bully. it takes a lot of courage. never approach a bully on your own. ask for help. a teacher, principal, parents, grandparents. if none of the people that can help you is available, use your phone or borrow somebody's phone and call the police and tell them what's going on. you can think, drugs, alcohol, beatings, you can figure out anything. and people that you ask for help, they'll help you, but one person that starts it, you find out how many other people were afraid. and they'll be happy to help you. stand up to a bully and don't let he or she get away with it. because if we don't stop it, it will continue forever. it is as simple, you can look in your own neighborhood, and then if you have that custom doing that, you will always think about it. you can't be silent when you know something is really wrong.
that's what happened. a million and a half children were brutally murdered because people let it happen. they didn't do anything. they were just indifferent and they let it happen. they let the bully get away with it. don't let that continue. please. >> thank you, louise. i want to thank you -- [ applause ] >> thank you very much. >> please stand up. american history tv airs on c-span3 every weekend, telling the american story through events, interviews and visits to historic locations. this month, american history tv is in primetime, to introduce you to programs you could see every weekend on c-span3. our features include lectures in history, visits to college class rooms across the country to hear lectures by top history professors, american artifacts takes a look at the treasures of u.s. historic sites, museums and archives.
real america, revealing the 20th century through archival films and newsreels. the civil war, where you hear about the people who shaped the civil war and reconstruction. and the presidency focuses on u.s. presidents and first ladies, to learn about their politics, policies and legacies. all this month in primetime and every weekend on american history tv on c-span3. tonight on american history tv primetime, the holocaust, three conversations from the u.s. holocaust memorial museums first person series. it begins at 8:00 eastern with survivor anna grows, recalling her family's experiences in romania. at 9:05 p.m. eastern, louise lawrence-israels talks about surviving the holocaust experience in the netherlands. and at 10:00 eastern, holocaust survivor julius menn talks about growing up in poland and
palestine in the 1930s and '40s. next on american history tv, holocaust survivor julius menn describes his experiences growing up in poland and palestine during the 1930s and 1940s. 10-year-old julius menn and his family were on an extended stay in poland from tel aviv when the german army invaded in september 1939. he describes how his family narrowly escaped east to lithuania by traveling through forests and fields, dodging hunger and german dive bombers. after a year in lithuania, the family returned to palestine in october 1940. this event was part of the united states holocaust memorial museum's first person series. it's a little over an hour. good morning and welcome to the united states holocaust memorial museum. my name is bill benson, the host of the museum's public program first person.