Lost Childhood
Holocaust Child Survivors


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Home >> Info >> Yoella Har-Shefi/ speaking at the Symposium on Lost Childhood in Berlin
Yoella Har-Shefi/ speaking at the Symposium on Lost Childhood in Berlin – 27.8.14 Please forgive me. Forgive me all. And do believe me that I am sane and rather gifted. I’m a seasoned journalist and a lawyer, and usually I behave normally. I also have no problem with speaking in public. Today I feel very uptight, very nervous. My words don’t come easily to me. My words betray me. I’m not speaking my own language, which is Hebrew. And please notice: I was born in Warsaw. My Polish language was perfect. It is not my language anymore; it is not my mother’s language anymore. I saw in your files, that I “lost” my parents in Treblinka. My parents were not a key holder! I didn’t "lose" them, they were murdered in Treblinka. Look at us. Look at us, my sisters’ and brothers’ survivals. Look at us, our honorable guests! I don’t know whether the representatives of Bundestag and other guests are still here or they left. But all of you look exhausted, tired, bored, and half asleep. And this is only after speaking for a few hours about the Shoah. Can you understand what it means, for six years, every second of six years, to die and live, to die and live the Shoah? We were not given the luxury of being exhausted or bored. Today, in this hall, we were speaking - all of us, and all the people that were speaking before me - so nicely, so softly, as if we were talking about our program for next Saturday. Believe me, I’m normal. But today I refuse to be the Noble Savage. I want to be the Savage! (…here the speaker released a loud and long scream…) That is what every one of us is suppressing, fighting against, every moment of our lives since ’45. We were never liberated. We never survived. We never could fulfill our personal promise. Because a huge part of our talents, of our powers, of our abilities were used to suppress this cry, to suppress the horrors, to suppress the memories, to suppress the terror in our nights, to be able to play the game of normal people, which we are not. Everyone, every one of us is a human being of heroic measures. And excuse me, Stefanie, I have never met you before, but we are not asking for hearing aids, we are not asking for somebody to change our diapers. We are demanding our right. After we were robbed of our first part of life, we demand the right to live the last chapter of our life in honor, in dignity. I am taking too much time. I want to explain to the people who are absent; because I assume they left ... I want to explain to the German people what is the nature and the meaning of our demands. We are not begging for donations. We are not blackmailing the German nation. We are not demanding payments which were already paid to us. We were not paid for our lost childhood, because the issue of lost childhood was never addressed. Not because somebody wanted to harm us again, but because the grown-ups were busy rebuilding their lives. And we...We children … you think, we died once, when our childhood was taken away? We died twice; the liberation for us was a second death. We never really learned how to exist in the Shoah, but six years is a long time. We learned how to make ourselves invisible. We learned how to be and not to be at the same time. But we finally did learn. And after we mastered the art of surviving in the Shoah, we were thrown again into an existence which we didn’t know. We didn’t know how to cope with normal life. We didn’t know how to look straight into somebodies eyes. We didn’t know how to behave as a normal human being. And there was nobody – no mother, no father – to teach us how. Could we have resumed our childhood? No, because at the age of 5, 10, 11, 12 we were old people. Please, please, whoever is here, who can bring my message to the German nation: We, the survivors, who were children in the Holocaust, we are the last obstacle between pushing the Shoah into oblivion, into a small footnote in history, and between learning something which can benefit all humanity. And if you will allow us, the people who were children in the Holocaust, to live the last chapter of our lives in dignity, you will apply a certain measure of this lesson to our generation. This is something which no amount of money by itself can do, but the necessary amount of finances combined with the recognition of the nature of our unprecedented fate and the issuing need - will accomplish. And one final sentence: I know that we are dealing today not with the generation of Germans who perpetrated the Holocaust. I know and I am grateful for the fact that we are dealing today with the generation of a new Germany, of new Germans. And what we are offering you – we are not asking, we are offering you – is not paying us another amount of compensation; what we are doing here is stretching out a hand to you, suggesting, offering you the possibility to become partners in putting this chapter behind us. Thank you.

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