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June 1, 2016

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Holocaust Remembrance Day

While I remember my grandfather fondly year round, this time of year these memories are particularly important to me. Born in Mannheim, Germany, he came to the United States through Ellis Island when he was 15 years old, in 1938. Because they were Jewish, he and his family might not have been able to leave Germany at all if not for the Nazi stamps on the minimal belongings they were able to pack, put there by a friend who owed the family a favor. After living in New York for a few years, my grandfather took a job building warships, and several months later he was drafted into the U.S. Army; he had just become a United States citizen.

When I was a child, he taught me to speak German, and while he wouldn’t talk very much of the war, I do remember one story. Having volunteered to drive a tank while stationed in France in 1944, he moved up to the front line. He encountered a group of German soldiers, and called out in German, “We will shoot you. Give up!” Having no idea that my grandfather was the only one in the tank with no one else to man the gun, they surrendered peacefully. He spoke with pride of this moment, and I am proud to remember him in this way, to honor him by retelling this story. He also fought on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, was in the Battle of the Bulge, and ultimately helped to liberate Dachau before returning to the U.S. when the war ended.

Oral history is the foundation for so many families, communities, and cultures. By documenting this history in books, articles, videos, or blogs, we can pay homage to those who risked their lives to stand up for what is just. Reading stories about the Holocaust can often be difficult, for children and adults alike. Many stories about history can bring up tough questions, but by opening up a dialogue about these subjects, we can try our best to ensure that history doesn’t repeat itself. My parents encouraged these conversations with me and my siblings, and I will do the same for generations to come.

To learn more about the Holocaust and explore ways to facilitate these conversations, please visit our Holocaust Remembrance Day page.


 

About the Author: Katie Klein is the online merchandising manager for Scholastic Reading Club.

 

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