This weekend I went to the Los Angeles Museum of Holocaust, not to be confused with the Museum of Tolerance. A friend of mine works there so it was nice to get a tour from someone I know. The group I went with had the privilege of hearing from not only one Holocaust survivor, but two! Gabriella, an artist, showed us her exhibit and explained the meaning behind her work. A longer presentation was given by Dorothy Greenstein. Being such a great communicator, Dorothy had my attention from the very beginning. I’ve copied a small excerpt of a handout she gave us, telling a little about her life story. Dorothy’s original name was Devorah.
“Devorah Kirszenbaum was born on December 10, 1930, in Otwock, Warsaw, Poland. Her father was a cantor, rabbi, and shochet. He also served as a judge for the Jewish community. Devorah had six sisters and two brothers. . . Shortly after the war started, the Jews of Otwock were forced into the Otwock ghetto. Devorah was able to leave the ghetto to obtain food. Warned of impending roundups, Devorah’s father insisted that she and her sisters go into hiding. Devorah went to the home of a court reporter, Ludwiczek, but was advised to return to the ghetto since there were no Germans in the area. She did so, only to learn that the Germans were coming. While fleeing, she had difficulty climbing a fence at the ghetto’s border. Not realizing that Devorah was Jewish, a German soldier assisted her over the fence…”
There is so much more to Dorothy’s story, so many moments when she thought it would be the end of her life, so many days and nights living in fear. The German soldier assisting her over the fence is only the first of many instances where Dorothy fled from being captured by the Nazis. It makes me wonder how so many “coincidences” or “lucky days” could’ve occurred. I believe there is a reason Dorothy is still alive. I can’t listen to her story and just think that her life was by chance.
I’ve been to the U.S. Memorial Holocaust Museum in DC and I’ve read Holocaust literature, but nothing compares to actually seeing and hearing a Holocaust survivor. If you have the opportunity, I encourage you to visit the Los Angeles Museum of Holocaust and listen first hand from a Holocaust survivor. There is so much we can learn from living history.