Day 2: One Morning With a Holocaust Survivor

By Belle Cushing

Margot Friedlander, a Holocaust survivor, reads from her book “Try to Make Your Life” at the Schwarzkopf Foundation. (Dorian Jedrasiewicz/FASPE)

Margot Friedlander never thought she would come back to Berlin. She left the city on a train from Grünewald station, heading north to the Theresienstadt ghetto, in June 1944. Sixty-five years later, she returned to her city, and now she tells German teenagers and groups like FASPE about surviving the Holocaust. On Tuesday, May 22, a bright clear day, Friedlander, dressed in a neat pencil skirt and a matching peach top, read from her memoir, “Try to Make Your Life,” to our group of journalists, lawyers, and business students.

She came back after living in America for over six decades, she said, to tell her story to younger generations. “I ask them to do what we can do no longer, because we die out. It is for them that I talk.”

“I think the people listen to me,” she said. “They understand what I was telling them.”

What is Margot Friedlander telling us? She is not trying to answer the same question that we are during these two weeks at FASPE. In fact, she declares it unanswerable. “I will never understand how it was possible,” she says, winding the cord of the microphone distractedly between her long fingers. “You must think. Small children. Little kids. They were shot. People did that. How was it possible that people could get their hands to do something like that?”

Friedlander’s story is not an answer to this question. Rather, she is part of the question, and hearing her story gives us a sense of why it’s so important to ask, and to keep asking.


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