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Open Letter From Survivors

As the world watches the ongoing conflict in Israel and Gaza, moments like this reverberate with many Holocaust Survivors. Today, on the 85th anniversary of “Kristallnacht,” several Survivors have come together to share a message with the world. 

Our hearts are broken – but now is not the time to give up.

Over 80 years ago our lives changed irrevocably. As Jewish children in German‐occupied Europe during the Holocaust, we experienced the destruction of our families, traditions, and communities. We looked around at a society on the brink of calamity and wondered, “Who will stand up for us?” while most of the world looked away. To us, the re‐establishment of Israel felt like a guarantee that there would be at least one nation that would never shut its doors in the face of Jews fleeing persecution.

Earlier last month, as we saw the news of Hamas attacking Israel, murdering children in their homes, spray‐shooting young people at a music festival, and kidnapping people of every age to drag to Gaza as hostages, we felt horror and fear that we had not felt since surviving the Holocaust. None of those civilians provoked what happened to them. Our hearts are broken.

There is no justification for Hamas’s terror. Their avowed goal is to eliminate the entire State of Israel, the safe haven for Jews worldwide. And Hamas bears blame for the death and suffering of innocent Palestinians that its attacks and brutal regime in Gaza have caused.

All Palestinians are not Hamas. And as we see the images of Palestinian children covered in soot, their parents and grandparents lining up at the border to seek safety in Egypt, thousands more already dead and wounded, our hearts ache for them too. The plight of civilians trapped in a war zone is one that we also know all too well.

The world is failing at its duties. People are retreating to their corners, casting blame on those who look, sound, or worship differently. Jewish places of gathering and worship are being defaced with swastikas as Jews around the world are being told that “Hitler should have eradicated all of you.” A 6‐year‐old boy in our community was stabbed to death because he was Palestinian. None of these actions will bring about a more peaceful and just world.

At this moment of grave crisis, we must come together to affirm each other’s humanity. The only way forward towards a world that we want our grandchildren to inherit is together. We must lay down our arms and stretch out our hands.

“Never again” means that we must never give up. That we, who saw much suffering and depravity, must continue to fight against prejudice and hate is cause for sorrow. But now is not the time to give up. We will continue in the conviction that if the world truly takes history to heart, it will take a stand for humanity. And we implore you not to give up either. Step out from your corner. Extend your hand in empathy and peace.

Sam H.Survivor of Demblin Ghetto and Czestochowa Concentration Camp, President Emeritus of Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center

Rodi G.Survivor of Amsterdam Ghetto, Westerbork Transit Camp, and Vittel Internment Camp

Marion D.Hidden Child, German-Occupied France

Estelle L.Survivor of Warsaw Ghetto, Majdanek, Skarzysko, and Czestochowa Concentration Camps

Sharon P. S.Hidden Child, German-Occupied Poland

Ralph R., Survivor of “Kristallnacht” and Escapee, Germany, Board Member of Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center

Ernst H., Survivor of “Kristallnacht” and Kindertransport

Steen M., Survivor, German-Occupation of Denmark and Theresienstadt (Terezin) Concentration Camp

Johanna S., Survivor of “Kristallnacht” and Escapee from German-Occupied Austria

Marguerite M., Hidden Child, German-Occupied Belgium

Agnes S., Hidden Child, German-Occupied Hungary

Barney S., Survivor of Demblin Ghetto and Warta and Buchenwald Concentration Camps

Ernest F., Survivor of “Kristallnacht” and Escapee, Germany

George M., Survivor of “Kristallnacht” and Vught and Bergen Belsen Concentration Camps

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