Regina Elenor Fisher
Editor’s note: It indeed is a matter of great pride to be the child of a Holocaust survivor. Our contributor Regina Elenor Fisher is one of them. She finds great comfort in writing for Blitz, because, we are the only newspaper, where antisemitism or anti-Israel bias has no place. We may not be yet amongst the so-called mainstream media, but indeed we are distinctively different. We certainly are proud of our editorial policy and the great team that is the vessel of inspiration to this newspaper. Blitz welcomes articles from you on diversified topics – but of course, we shall feel especially honored receiving articles on the Holocaust and also articles exposing anti-Israel bias.
When I was a girl I used to sit with my mom for hours and listen to her stories, of a faraway place where chaos was common and hatred ruled the land. This place was in Europe and the year was 1944. My mother was child survivor of the Holocaust; a hidden child. She was four years old when the Nazi’s invaded her country, to fully implement the “Final solution” to the Jewish problem. At this tender young age she had to pretend she was a Christian and not a Jew: she was hidden in plain sight. My family was able to purchase false identity papers on the black market and thus was able to hide among the Christian population. During this time there was constant bombing by the Allied forces. The Americans and the British by day and the Russians by night! Ordinary Christian civilians went into hiding from the bombs in underground bunkers. My mother and her nanny hid as a family unit, with their false papers stating that she was the nanny’s child. My grandmother and uncle hid together as mother and son, with false papers stating that my grandma was the wife of an officer serving on the eastern front. At night the Gestapo would raid the bunkers looking for hidden Jews, frequently targeting the youngest children, hoping they would make a mistake. They would shine their bright lights into my mother’s sleeping face and then proceed to ask for her for her name and religion. It is at this point that my mother gave a false name and stated her religion was Roman Catholic. She was then required to cross herself and pray using the rosary beads; her nanny had shown her how to pray with beads. Her nanny at great risk to herself had chosen to save my mother, as those helping Jews faced the same fate as those they saved. My mother never made a mistake, for she had been told by my grandmother that the “ bad men “ would harm them if she did.
During this time in hiding my uncle became sick and my Grandmother was worried and wondered if she should take the risk to take him to a doctor. As his conditioned worsened, she finally decided he had to see a doctor. When the doctor examined him he knew instantly he was Jewish, as only Jewish males were circumcised in Europe at that time. Fortunately the doctor was a good man and gave my grandmother medicine and sent them on their way. There was always a lack of food during this time, so my grandmother would have to go out with her fake ration cards and try to obtain what food she could. My mother’s nanny was to afraid of the bombs to go on the street, as a true Christian it would have been safer for her to go verses my grandmother. But she was fearful, so my grandmother died her hair blond, put a scarf on her head and with her round aryan looking face and bluish grey eyes went out on the street in search of food many times. On one such occasion when she was waiting in a long line at a bakery for bread, a stranger approached her and whispered “I know who you really are; leave now the Gestapo are on their way.” Sure enough within a short amount of time the Gestapo came and were checking identity papers looking for hidden Jews. Once again a decent person had helped.
My Grandfather at this time was in a forced labor battalion. The “job” of Jewish prisoners in the battalion was to walk through mine fields removing potential bombs laid out by the Russians. The cook in the battalion was a friend of my grandfather and would save him a little extra food. This extra food was critical to survival, as rations to Jews were extremely small. Many died of hunger and exhaustion, but he survived.
My great grandparents were not so lucky; they were rounded up with thousands of other Jews on a forced march towards the trains, heading to Aushwitz Concentration Camp. While on the march my great grandmother Elenor made a decision; she was going escape. She begged my great grandfather to jump into a ditch along the road side as they marched, but he adamantly refused. The penalty for attempted escape was being shot immediately. The Nazi’s lied to the Jews that they were going to be “relocated to the east”, so that they would cooperate and walk toward the trains. Although some people began to suspect otherwise. My great grandfather was afraid and told his wife, it was to dangerous. Despite this my great grandmother took her courage in hand and decided to jump on her own. She jumped into a ditch along the roadside and stayed there for two days, until a kindly farmer helped her. The farmer gave her food and ride back to where other family members were hiding. My great grandfather remained on the line with my other set of great grandparents. The wheel of fortune and courage combined again to intervene, in what seemed an inevitable fate for my great grandparents. My great uncle upon hearing that his parents had been taken on the march, had bribed local a Nazi official to give him a uniform and then go with him in a Jeep to the front of the line marching to the trains. When he arrived he told those in charge of the march that my four great grandparents were needed back in the capital city for questioning at Gestapo headquarters. Of course only three of my great grandparents were there, as my great grandmother had already jumped in the ditch. After that they went into hiding and remained there for a year, until the war ended in 1945. My mother’s family was the lucky ones, as millions perished in the camps. Eventually my mother’s family immigrated to Canada and the United States, but that too was a challenging situation for my mother, uncle and grandparents. They were trapped on the Communist side of Europe. At the age of 8 my mother traveled many kilometers across the border at night with her family and a guide who was paid well. Whenever I think of the travails my relatives went through and the courage/quick thinking they displayed, it has give me the strength to deal with my own challenges in life; which are small in comparison.
Following the war the Jewish people took on the motto “Never Again”. The existence of the state of Israel is a testament to that motto. Never again would Jews have no place to go, should they be persecuted. The assumption by the world was that this inhuman savagery and crimes against humanity would never again occur. To many people’s chagrin this was not to be the case, as Genocides in Bosnia and Rwanda occurred years later. As well as lesser known human atrocities in other places around the globe. To those that deny the Holocaust, I have come to say to them as a second generation witnesses it did happen! The Nazi’s persecuted homosexuals, gypsies, disabled people and any who opposed them, not just Jews. Antisemitism is on the rise globally; a sobering thought to all those who think it is in the past. To those individuals that are not Jewish, remember that what starts with the Jews never ends with them; any minority group could be a target. Vigilance as well as understanding of the past are needed to prevent this evil from occurring again. Or else like the saying goes; those that do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
Regina Elenor Fisher is the child of a Holocaust survivor and a regular contributor of Blitz.