Annual Holocaust Remembrance Essay Contest
2nd Place Winner: Ally Ziles, sophomore
School: Riverside High School
Teacher: Bethany Phillis
When I was three, every winter I would travel with my mom and my great-grandmother Celia and her best friend Charlotte to Florida. I had been splashing with the two women in the pool when I began to recite the numbers tattooed on the golden skin of Charlotte’s arm. To her, a permanent scar of a painful past. I could not comprehend the memories behind it.
Charlotte Summers lived in Berlin, Germany in the 1930’s. She was a bright and happy teenager, and the daughter of a wealthy Jewish doctor. Charlotte had lived an amazing life that was soon taken away only because of her religion. One hot summer night, there was knock at their door. Charlotte had been playing with her two younger sisters; one was only two years old. Her father knew of all of the turmoil that was afoot in Germany, but he hadn’t shared the news with the girls; they were oblivious to it all. Charlotte’s father had been saving money so his family could plan an escape from the dangerous and corrupt country, but the knock had come too soon. The Summers’ family was soon on their way to Dachau, a concentration camp in southern Germany.
Charlotte was a lucky one; she did not stay in the concentration camps for very long. Her family though, wasn’t so lucky; Charlotte and her middle sister were the only ones of the Summers family to make it out of Germany to the safety of America alive. Charlotte had witnessed many casualties and fatalities. One in particular was her two-year-old sister. She had seen painful sights, but none as bad as seeing her own sister thrown into the repulsive and horrific unforgiving graves of the ovens. Once she had fled from the camp with her sister through an underground system, they were swiftly transported to the safety of America. Within themselves, beholds a past that would haunt them forever.
She then started a new life; she married a man who was also a Holocaust survivor. When Charlotte moved to Baltimore, Maryland in which she met my great-grandmother Celia, and together with six other families they started a small Jewish congregation in their hometown. Charlotte made a vow to herself, her family, and her faith that she would be a proponent for Judaism. She vowed to keep the religion alive, because she had watched it been taken away from so many others. Charlotte wanted to create a sanctuary, where people could worship without fear of persecution.
As a three-year-old, I did not understand what those numbers meant, but as I got older and the stories were passed down to me, I began to understand the gravity of what had occurred. From this personal experience, I learned to be tolerant and understanding of all people no matter what race, religion, and background. I remember in Charlotte’s story taking about how she watched young men, women and children, not only Jewish but Gypsy and the mentally handicapped being thrown into the ovens. Also how fear and of the unknown can cause a damaging outcome. From Charlotte and important thing I had learned was how important my family was to me, because hers had been taken away in such a brutal fashion, until she had been invited into my own. Lastly to keep your faith and beliefs, because they can help get you through the toughest of time and push you forward. In some of Charlotte’s darkest hours she would pray, and look to God for hope, so she could get out of the hell that she had entered.
It is important for us to remember the Holocaust, and the almost annihilation of an entire religion, we can educate the future generations, so that it would never happen again. Charlotte took a negative experience and turned it into a positive one. She never let it hold her back; she only used it as an excuse to propel her forward. Genocide has occurred in recent history, taking place in Bosnia, Darfur, and Rwanda. Some of these countries denounce that the Holocaust never even occurred. This is relevant today because talking about these events makes the world aware of the atrocities that have occurred. A lesson we have learned from the Holocaust and unfortunate experiences surrounding it is that we need to teach our children and the future generation about the experience and extermination of a group solely because of their beliefs. Therefore, we remember this event, not only Jews but also everyone on earth, and never forget, because the moment we forget it will happen again.