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Friday, November 14, 2014

Surviving The Holocaust

An undated photo of Anne as a young girl. She began writing in her diary on...
AP  An undated photo of Anne as a young girl. She began writing in her diary on June 12, 1943, with the words: "I hope I will be able to confide everything to you, as I have never been able to confide in anyone, and I hope you will be a great source of comfort and support."

"I compare myself often to Anne Frank. She liked writing and she would have been a better writer than I am. ... She landed in almost the same circumstances with her family Only there was one bad thing. She was discovered and she did not survive and I did."
"My father locked the door and we didn't know if we ever would come back. That was an awful feeling. We had to leave behind everything."
"My father said, 'If we have to hang, then it will be on the last gallows'."
"There was one day that we heard banging on doors. There were big trucks, German trucks. And the Germans always screamed. They could not talk normally. They always screamed. Their boots were [made of] iron. You heard them walking."
"Our hearts stopped. Then a motorbike came into the street with [an] officer and he said, 'We have to go home. We have to go home.' They all went back into the trucks and they drove off. So that was a very close call."
"My father put a little line on the wallpaper the first evening and he said if there are 100 lines we will be free again. But it took 786 days before we were free. Two years and two months."
"I will never forget that image. They came walking, they had daffodils on their helmets that they'd got from the Dutch people, and they handed out cigarettes and they handed out chocolate."
"Those are simple words: to step out of the house and go onto the street. But for us, it was a whole new adventure."
"The houses seemed so big. Because we knew so many people, we had a whole bunch of people around us who kissed us and who cried."
"And then I had that feeling. They didn't get us. They tried, they wanted to get us, but they didn't. ... We won, from the Germans, because we survived, and that was a good feeling."
Betty Laron, 85, Burlington, Ontario
Betty Laron, 12, poses with her parents Frederika and Josef outside the family home in Zevenaar, Netherlands, in the summer 1942, before going into hiding. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ HO, Betty Laron
Betty Laron, 12, poses with her parents Frederika and Josef outside the family home in Zevenaar, Netherlands, in the summer 1942, before going into hiding. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ HO, Betty Laron

She, among the estimated one out of every three Jews in Europe managed to survive the Nazi plan to exterminate the Jews of Europe. She is now able, at her advanced age, to state that Hitler's Third Reich did not destroy her immediate family, and she has a right to feel great satisfaction in that. The agony that she and her family experienced having to conceal their existence from a morbidly malevolent adversary was price enough to pay for survival.

Living in Zevenaar, Netherlands, her father understood by 1943 that if they were to save themselves from perishing as more than rumour had it so countless many others were doing in Nazi Germany's double-pronged war; one against the Allied Command, the other against the intolerable existence of a 'race' of people considered by the fascists to be inferior and a threat to decent society, as they themselves clearly were not; they would be forced to make themselves disappear from public view.

Betty Laron was twelve years old when she and her parents went underground; her counterpart in Amsterdam was already in hiding with her family. An episode of the History channel program War Story was dedicated to Betty Laron's story of survival. By late 1942 her family, she explained, had heard that the camps where Jews were to be sent were not work camps as they were benignly described but "destruction camps". Motivating her father to search for haven for his family.

When they finally left the only home they knew, they were in desperate grief. They moved in with a poor family to whom her father paid a modest fee to live in the small upstairs floor of the house. Mr. Franz, Betty's father, tried to help his landlord Mr. Heister's business in carpentry working in secret on the second level of the house for the wood shop. Mr. Heister was one of those good souls who felt he had no option but to help save the lives of a Jewish family. His connivance kept them out of the death camps. At risk to his own life.

The family underwent a dramatic alteration in their daily routines, communicating with one another by whispers and treading as lightly as possible across the floor of the chamber that became their refuge. They were always hungry, and became accustomed to eating rotten root vegetables, all that was left when German soldiers looted local food to feed themselves. These conditions led to Betty becoming ill with tuberculosis. The life of isolation and ebbing hope for release from their nightmare took its toll.

In the spring of 1945 they became aware of soldiers of the Allied militaries making progress across Europe. The Netherlands was liberated by the First Canadian Army. Betty Laron can still recall the agony of expectation, the urgency of hoping for a now-speedy liberation, even while progress appeared to be agonizingly slow. Then on April 3, 1945 they witnessed Canadian soldiers marching around their street corner.

That was at 6:00 a.m. but the family remained within the house fearing that German soldiers would return. Finally they felt safe enough to leave the house at 2:00 p.m., and Betty Laron recalls people crushing against one another, celebrating in the streets. And they were finally free.
Betty Laron

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