An Interview about World War II
I interviewed Mrs. Laycob, the counselor of MICDS of her Grandmother's perspective and story of W.W.II. By e-mail, on February 4th of 2008, she told me detailed descriptions about an unknown story that needs to be told. I thought that by different perspectives of the same event, many, such as us middle schoolers, can learn about unknown events inside the event, the things so little none noticed until now.
Born in October of 1916, 91 years old now, Teresa Allerhand Poleski was a Jewish 17 year old when W.W.II broke out (1933). She was not allowed to attend universities, and her family was forced to leave their home and live in the Krakow Ghetto in Poland. In this terrible camp, Teresa lost her father when he was transported to a death camp when she was 19, about 2 years after her persecution, and never saw him again.
Later, she ended up in a labor camp in Plaistow, located near the Krakow ghetto. When this camp was closed down, she was sent to Auschwitz, the concentration camp many feared, and was tattooed with a number that will always be a memory of the life of Jews and their unfair treatment. This tattoo was full proof of being forced to work in horrible conditions even worse than Plaistow. However, she was one of the few lucky ones who ended up leaving Auschwitz and being sent to another slave labor camp.
However, leaving Auschwitz wasn't the better of the war, are winning to the tough battle between the strong government of the Germans and the Jewish community. Her new camp was not AS bad, but did not let her off the hook so easily. At this camp, she had to make uniforms for the German army, think about it, making army uniforms for the troops that chased you away from your homes, your lives, but you have no chance, no chance of getting the freedom that people need, that people were supposed to get. Fighting against these thoughts, she survived the war under these terrible conditions and was liberated by the Russians, at last, at the end of the war.
Many survivors of this time period, many of them Jewish, had many memories from their experience during W.W.II that were too painful to remember. Many, including Teresa, tried as hard as possible to ignore the hard memories of her past, and does not like to talk about their harsh stories.
So, vivid memories or none, their hearts ache in such ways that it's something you want to forget, something you don't want to remember forever. Also, there were a few to no good things or memories of the war.
However, you cannot forget, that many relationships that later lead to marriages where formed in these camps. Yes, although tough and harsh, people found their true loves right there. Teresa was one of these lucky ones, because she met her true love in a ghetto, yes, a ghetto.
One hot question, in which there are thousands of possible answers, is the question, What were the worst/most difficult things about the war?
Teresa can go on forever, on and on about this. She explains that the anti-semitism and the horrible conditions she was forced to endure were the hardest things for her, but some things were private. Some events were the secret that will not be open in front of this generation's eyes, some scene none of us will ever feel or get a taste of, it's hard, harsh past.
The war had a huge impact on Poland. Poland used to be a very vibrant, exciting country and the war completely changed that picture, image of the old Poland.
However, the scenery was not the only thing that dramatically changed. Teresa and her husband stayed in Poland for 2 years after the defeat of Germany's troops, but the anti-semitism still lingered, and it was something that was left over, a scar, small cubicles of sugar at a bottom of a cup not able to be scooped up by the big plastic spoon that is only available.
The sugar was the Nazi's and anti-semitism and everything against people's rights, but some stayed, and you could never be caught. Teresa and her husband could not stand it, they soon fled to Israel. Their homes were not the only things lost from the hands of the Jewish families. Many family members, homes, lands, were lost, but most importantly, memories, prized possessions were lost and stolen.
In Teresa's case, many things are not in their possession now. But recently, she was able to reclaim the building her father had owned and where she grew up. She was able to take back ownership of what was taken away from her during the war. Things were not just lost during the war, something's were gained.
In Teresa's case, many people and incidents saved her life, bringing her to this point in life. She had moments when her life was saved because random people decided to do what was right.
Specifically, there was a Nazi soldier who during an "Appell" (this is when the Ghetto's were cleared out and people were loaded onto trucks to be sent to death camps), pulled her away and told her to run away. Had he not done this she would have been loaded on the truck and sent to death, for a split second he had a moment where he realize that he did not want to see this person die and it saved her life.
What can WE learn from this, as a middle schooler?
Teresa's granddaughter Mrs. Laycob quotes. "The first lesson and a very powerful one is that "evil can only triumph when people stand by and do nothing" although a lot of people tried to stand up to the Nazi's, many did not and were silent observers to the atrocities taking place. In a way even as bystanders they are responsible for what was able to take place. This lesson can be applied to what I know takes place on a daily basis in middle school and is no stranger to our very own MICDS. That is that people standing by when people are being mean to each other. I see students making fun of each other with other people standing by and saying nothing. We must learn from the lessons of the Holocaust that being a bystander and not standing up for things we know are wrong can be just as dangerous as being the person who is participating in the meanness." As she says, the "bystand-ing", and the "entertainment" of meanness isn't a one time thing, as in the Holocaust. It is observed right here, in our very own community.
Mrs. Laycob also explains that, "I think we can also learn from the Holocaust that whenever one group of people thinks that they are better than someone else evil can occur.
The Nazi's were able to do what they did because they did not believe that Jews and other groups were as good as them, they were less than human and didn't deserve the same rights as them. This is no different today in middle school when one group of people think they can treat people without dignity because they believe they are better than them either because they are more popular, a better athlete or whatever the reason may be. Another lesson is that even in times of horror like the Holocaust, there were many people who risked their lives to do the right thing. There are many stories of "Righteous Gentiles or Righteous Rescuers" who risked their lives to save people they did not even know because they knew what was happening around them was wrong." The German's were wrong, but they thought they were right in there own ways. Others were not fully human, they were.
The war may have changed these survivor's perspective on the war, we as followers, will never be able to sense and feel what it was like to go through times like this.
We will NEVER know how these people did it, the true heroes in this world, unlike many others that are the useless heroes. This event made her feel things that she never thought of feeling before, like making her distrustful of people. When you witness as much evil as she did you start to question people very much. She also is very nervous and paranoid because of these experiences.
Even now, in Canada, she is always fearful that something like this could happen again. She is also nervous about anyone knowing she was Jewish. Even to this day she will be afraid for people outside her family to know she is Jewish. These are just a few things that changed her, in her lookout of the world, the scary thing with another side that nobody knows except for these true survivors that we should listen to fight and to know the right thing to do.
Please remember that this isn't just a one time thing. It HAPPENS, to you and me it will happen at least ten times in a life time! Also remember, don't be a bystander, DO SOMETHING.