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Judith Abramson writes about the bravery of her Israeli host grandmother during the Holocaust. In 1941, her host grandmother was 14-years-old and began writing in a diary about her hardships. This bravery carries over to the major Passover theme of freedom, which Savta Shoshana understands more than most.
Auschwitz Photo Credit: Reuters/Channel 2 News
During Passover, we as Jews celebrate being freed from slavery. I am so blessed to know my host grandmother, Shoshana, whose daughter and son-in-law were my host family when I was a lone soldier in the IDF. Shoshana, whose German name is Sonja, grew up in Berlin and fled the Nazis at the age of 14 without her family. For the remainder of the Holocaust, she lived with a group of Jewish teenagers who had also fled from the Nazis in Yugoslavia and Italy. One of her friends from the group made Shoshana a diary in which she wrote nearly every day from 1941 until she made Aliyah. The diary is still in her possession today.
Her diary was published by a German journalist, who took upon himself the task of researching everyone Shoshana wrote about. The title of the book in German translates to “Sonja’s Diary.” 14-year-old Sonja’s writing is so raw and emotional, giving new insight into the daily life of a young girl during the Holocaust. In her journal, she did not write much about politics, but rather about her feelings, which did in fact reflect the political situation. She writes while crying that she has no shoes: she must work barefoot. She writes about missing her mother, brother and the rest of her family and how she is scared she will never see them again. She impatiently waits for letters from them, which are her only way of knowing if they are alive. Every day that passes without a letter becomes more and more unbearable.
As I sat next to Savta Shoshana, looking at her worn diary and pictures of her family, she seemed happy; as if her lost family was there with her. She wanted someone to listen to her story and I was more than grateful for her to tell me. She told me how she clearly remembers Kristallnacht: how the Germans broke all Jewish store shop windows, broke into synagogues, took the holy books and burned them in a pile. She remembers her father being taken away.
Last Passover, I was lucky enough to spend the holiday with Savta Shoshana: a beautiful and incredibly brave woman who knows the true meaning of freedom. She and her late husband, also a Holocaust survivor, defeated all odds by creating a tribe of four children, twelve grandchildren and twelve great-grandchildren. May everyone this Passover remember what Jewish freedom is truly about. May everyone be thankful for all that they have.