The Holocaust, from the perspective of a Jewish ceremonial object, by QCC Student Stephanie Koshki
11 million deaths; 6 million Jews, 5 million “other”. To say that the holocaust was horrible is an understatement. The Nazis may have killed 11 million people, but I am here today as verification that the holocaust did indeed happen. In all cultures there is a coming of age ceremony. For the Jews, specifically the boys there is a bar mitzvah party at the age of 13. As a gift, fathers give their sons tefillin, which are small black boxes that contain a portion of the Torah that tells us to remember that God took us out of Egypt and freed us from slavery. The boys wear us every morning besides for Sabbath and holy holidays, while they pray. In the 1900’s especially after the First World War, money was scarce. As a tradition I was passed down from father to son for many years.
My last owner’s name was Jacob. I remember the day I was presented to him on his birthday, January 20, 1937. He was so excited. He wanted to be like his father. He used to watch his father use me every morning. Jacob would ask, “Daddy when can I use your teffilin?” and his father answered, “Soon my son, soon.” Then finally his birthday came and he used me for the first time. He unwrapped me slowly and carefully and he said the blessing with such concentration. I never felt that special. From that day on I made a new friend. Every morning Jacob woke up early to put me on and pray. I have been used for many years, however, I never felt so appreciated in my life. As the year went by, Jacob used me in a closed, secluded room. He did not want to be seen by the Germans. If the Germans saw me they would take me away and burn me. I noticed how Jacob wore the yellow star on his shirt to represent that he is Jewish. As the war was beginning Jacob spent more time at home. He was scared. He did not know what he did to deserve such discrimination. He was just an innocent 13 year old. What he did not understand was why the Holocaust even happened, why did Hitler hate the Jews? Why did 11 million people have to die? That is a question I still ask myself today.
On the night of November 9, 1938 all hell broke loose. It seemed like a dream. I heard the screams of the innocent Jews, as they watched their precious shops being destroyed. So many Synagogues, so many businesses destroyed in one night. The holy works were burnt, the torahs, and the prayer books. Kristallnacht they call it the “night of broken glass”, in other words the night of shattered hopes and dreams. They hoped that the anti-Semitism would die down. The people dreamed for a brighter future for their children and families. Both were doomed to failure.
One day Jacob came home and told me “I have to go somewhere, but I promise I’ll come back for you. I am going to put you in a secret place so nobody can find you.” Then he put me under the floor, where I was hidden from sight. I felt scared, and lonely. Little did I know that innocent people were being sent to the gas chambers. I had it good, I was safe. For the next 7 years I sat there, waiting for Jacob. I heard people screaming and crying begging for help as they were being forced to go to the labor camps. If they were not shot or gassed the people died of starvation, sickness, and mal nutrition. The Nazi’s had no mercy. I always thought about my little Jacob, hoping that he was safe wherever he was.
The next 6 years are a blur to me because all I saw was black all around me. I heard silence. In 1945 when the camps were liberated I sat there patiently waiting to see a friendly face of my Jacob. I waited months and months and finally I gave up hope. I just wanted to be found. Then I heard the door open and I heard a man talking. It was Jacob. He came back to me. He left me when he was a boy but what I saw standing in front of me was a man. A skinny, unhealthy looking man. I spent many years with Jacob. He continued to love me and use me until he was too weak to lift me. He wanted to pass me on to his son to continue their tradition. However, he knew how valuable I really am. He donated me to the holocaust museum. I am displayed so that everybody knows that Hitler was not victorious. 11 million pure souls were exterminated, 6 million Jews and 5 million “others”. Millions of Jews did die but since then we are mulitipling. As a survivor I must teach my Jacob’s story and even through his misery he remained a God fearing Jew. Listen world God is one.