Hunter College H.S. Holocaust Survivors

Holocaust Vignettes

Annette Breuer Kirschner '60:

Annette is a child survivor who was born in the middle of World War II and spent her earliest years desperately hiding from the Nazis.

I was born in Lyon, France in 1942. As Jews we were viciously hunted in France. My parents were refugees from Germany and Orthodox Jews. We hid in different places, including in a run-down farm in the mountains of the Vercos in Central France. I do not remember much of the horrible times through which I lived during the war, but I do have lots of memories of immediate post-war France, going to school where Jews were still disliked. I attended l’Ecole Maternelle and remember a year in Lycee in Lyon before coming to the U.S. in 1954. I knew no word of English, but learned quickly and three years later in 1957 I was accepted to the 9th grade of Hunter College High School.

Not only was I a Holocaust survivor, but I was also an Orthodox Jew. Therefore, I kept a low profile at Hunter and was not really "in." I never spoke up, because I felt different from everyone else and wanted very much to fit in. In spite of this, I loved my three years at Hunter, and the education I received has served me well to this day. Until very recently, I did not realize that there were others like me. How much more comfortable I would have felt had I known! The war years and how my family survived the Holocaust are recounted in the book I wrote called "Ask Thy Father," the title chosen because it is my father's memoirs.

Renee Neu Watkins '49 :

I am a survivor of the Holocaust. I fled with my parents from Berlin to Holland in 1936, and then to Portugal in 1940. We got to the U.S. in 1941. I was lucky enough to see neither violence nor war; nonetheless the events left deep pain. I became a historian of the Renaissance and taught at the University of Massachusetts and Boston University.

Inge Gould, '54 :

I came to the U.S. from Germany in 1939 at the age of 2. I suppose I am a Holocaust survivor. Even though I remember nothing of the horrors directly, I certainly heard about them from my parents.

Margot Erlanger Wegner, June '47 :

I was born in Stuttgart, Germany in 1929, an only child, and was fortunate enough to leave Germany for the U.S. in May of 1938. I arrived in a country where I was not only uprooted, but didn't speak the language and experienced a lot of "why don't you go back where you came from" during the Second World War. I struggled with many issues during my adolescence, and was fortunate to attend a high school that did not penalize me for my "acting out." It will come as no surprise that I have a Ph.D. in Social Work and am still working part time in private practice as a psychotherapist. My maternal grandfather died in Theresienstadt Concentration Camp.

Elinor Katten Goldberg, June '48 :

Our family fled from Germany to Amsterdam in 1932, first my father illegally, and then when the Dutch government made his entrance legal, the Germans had to let me and my mother leave. My uncles who lived in the US saw the handwriting on the wall and urged us to come to America during the 30's. But once they started their business, my father and mother were happy in Amsterdam and would not leave until the very end, when my uncles sent us visas. Luckily we got out in time.

Eleanor Ullman Light, Jan. '49 :

I arrived in this country in December 1940. My family came from Germany and left in 1933. We spent the intervening years in Spain, Switzerland and Portugal but primarily France. We did get caught living in Vichy where the French put my father in an internment camp, because though he was a Jew he was also a German national. Fortunately, as the Germans were approaching, the French opened the camp door. We migrated to Cannes where we were able to get a visa to Siam with a transit visa for Spain and Portugal. The French would not give us an exit visa so we escaped by climbing over the Pyrenes in September 1940. We waited in Portugal until we were able to get an entry visa to the US. I have visited Thailand many times and always wonder what would have happened had we actually emigrated there. Until now I have not shared my story with many.

Eliane Meyer Norman, June '49 :

My parents came from Alsace Lorraine. In 1938 when our family lived in Paris where my father had a silk and fabric store, my parents and two sets of uncles and aunts bought a property in a village in the Loire Valley. My family's idea was this house in the "boonies" could be a refuge in case of war. Later, after France fell to the Nazis, it turned out that the property was five kilometers outside of Occupied France. We moved there in 1940, and my father started paper work to come to America. Unfortunately, he contracted cancer and died in Nov,1941.

Since I was the youngest, I went to school locally. My brother, who was three years older than me, and cousins went to boarding schools in larger towns. Even in a small town like Saint Georges, there was some anti-Semetism. One of my uncles was Orthodox and wore a yamalke and walked around singing Hebrew prayers. Because of this, I was sometimes ostracized and taunted by a small group of people, but it was enough to make me apprehensive and give me bad dreams.

In September 1942 my mother, brother and I left France and travelled through Spain to Portugal, where we set sail for the U.S. We arrived in Baltimore early in November, and moved to New York where my mother had some relatives.

My brother knew some English, but my mother and I did not. We lived at first in a one-room apartment as finances were tight. Mother got jobs doing sewing either at home or in factories. I remember helping her by sewing beads on hats and weaving rafia. My brother and I wanted to go to the Lycee Francais, but finances did not allow this, so we entered public schools. At first I was placed two years behind because of my lack of English. It took me a year and a half to catch up with my grade level. I had a few friends but always felt different because of my backgound. Fortunately, when I entered Hunter in 1946, I met Ruth Shaffit, a refugee from Germany who became my best friend through high school and Hunter College. Sadly, she died 10 years ago.

Edna Selan Epstein ‘56 :

I was born in Zagreb, Yugoslavia in 1938 and came to the United States in 1944. I guess that makes me a Holocaust survivor, although never having in the camps, I never thought of myself as such.

Julie Gabriel '77 :

My father, who died in 2003, was a Holocaust survivor. My mother is a Holocaust survivor.  They survived because the war ended before everyone in Budapest was deported.  They came to the U.S. after the 1956 revolt in Hungary.


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