People reporting other people to the authorities. Entire faiths, entire ethnicities demonized, attacked. Ghettos. Mobs. Looting. Uniforms. Gassing. Rampant disease. These are the circumstances in …
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People reporting other people to the authorities. Entire faiths, entire ethnicities demonized, attacked. Ghettos. Mobs. Looting. Uniforms. Gassing. Rampant disease.
These are the circumstances in which Eva Braun Levine found herself as the Nazi stranglehold tightened on Europe. Last week, July 6, was Eva Levine’s birthday … July 6, 1916, to be exact, and I am writing here again to commemorate this day.
Eva was the second daughter of five children born to Jewish parents in Lodz, Poland. Her father was in real estate, and the family owned the building in which they lived. Eva finished high school and studied history at a local university.
I selected Eva’s Identification Card #2633, when I visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., at random from a bin of such ID cards for females — women and children — who were victims of the ghettos, deportations, concentration camps, and, for so many, the gas chambers and mass murders of the Holocaust.
In Poland, Eva married her boyfriend Herman in 1939. The previous year Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass), a pogrom against Jews carried out in Germany by Nazi paramilitary forces and civilians, had already taken place. Jewish homes, hospitals and schools were ransacked as attackers demolished buildings with sledgehammers.
Then Germany invaded Poland. The Gestapo banged on Eva’s door and slapped her father-in-law around. Eva herself confronted the officers.
In 1941, Eva and Herman and Eva’s family — her mother, father, and three sisters — were deported to the ghetto of Piotrkow Trybunalski. In 1944 all the women were deported to Ravensbrück, a concentration camp in Germany and later to Bergen-Belsen.
Disease was rampant in the camps and Eva’s health deteriorated. Her mother Machla was so weakened by starvation and disease that she died two days before the British arrived at the camp in April 1945. Eva’s father Yakob had been deported to Buchenwald in 1944 and then to Bergen-Belsen, where he died without ever finding his family.
Eva was liberated by the British and she moved to the United States in 1950. The Holocaust Museum has no record of what happened to Herman Levine, and I know nothing more of Eva.
Times are different now. People and places are different. But the hate is not. The kind of hatred that killed six million people — for no other reason than that they were Jewish — is on a painfully apparent rise, not only in America, but around the world.
Yet, I find the most poignant part of Eva’s story is that she stood up to the Gestapo when they came to bully her family. She confronted them and defied their orders. The way her story progressed, however, is why we must also stand up to hate.
As I contemplated our Independence Day, and the ideals upon which America was built, I am more convinced than ever that we must also defy the bullies today who make way for discrimination, harassment and assault on others simply because of their faiths, their heritage, their gender, where they were born or who they love.
I commemorate Eva’s birthday to bear witness for the millions of people who perished in or survived the horrors of the Holocaust, and to urge all of us to do whatever we can to confront hatred and injustice today.
What we don’t stand for is as important as what we do.
Andrea Doray is a writer who reminds us that disease is also running rampant again. Wear a mask, social distance, wash your hands and stay safe. Contact Andrea at email@example.com.
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