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Sophia Veffer: Holocaust Survivor

15 Jun 2009, JERUSALEM, Israel --- Polish-born Holocaust survivor Meyer Hack shows his prisoner number tattooed on his arm during a news conference at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem June 15, 2009. A 95-year-old Auschwitz survivor, Hack, donated jewellery he took from the clothing of Jews who were gassed to death at the Nazi camp to Yad Vashem on Monday. Hack, who now lives in Boston, found the gems while sorting the clothing of victims sent to die in the gas chambers, which was his job at the camp where his mother, brother and two sisters perished. REUTERS/Baz Ratner (JERUSALEM CONFLICT SOCIETY) --- Image by © BAZ RATNER/Reuters/Corbis

15 Jun 2009, JERUSALEM, Israel — Polish-born Holocaust survivor Meyer Hack shows his prisoner number tattooed on his arm during a news conference at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem June 15, 2009. A 95-year-old Auschwitz survivor, Hack, donated jewellery he took from the clothing of Jews who were gassed to death at the Nazi camp to Yad Vashem on Monday. Hack, who now lives in Boston, found the gems while sorting the clothing of victims sent to die in the gas chambers, which was his job at the camp where his mother, brother and two sisters perished. REUTERS/Baz Ratner (JERUSALEM CONFLICT SOCIETY) — Image by © BAZ RATNER/Reuters/Corbis

“During the Holocaust, there were three types of people; the victims, the bystanders, and the perpetrators,” she said quietly, looking out into the audience. Her hands were shaking while holding the microphone. The audience shifted, uncomfortably, as her eyes began to water up. “But,” suddenly her eyes gleamed, “there were also the up-standers. The people who risked their lives for the victims. These people are the people who grew up with parents who made chicken soup for the sick next door neighbor.”

Sophia Veffer was a child during the Holocaust, but that does not mean that her experiences are any less vivid. She lived in Amsterdam, Holland, and was a contemporary of Anne Frank. After unsuccessfully trying to escape Holland when the Nazis invaded, Veffer was separated from her parents and put in hiding. Throughout the Holocaust she hid in eleven different places before the Nazis found her. She was then sent to Westerbork Camp and onto Bergen-Belsen, before being liberated.

As I sat in the audience on May 17 listening to Veffer speak, a lot of what she said stuck with me. The Holocaust tends to be the genocide most people are aware of, but Veffer frequently brought up the other horrific genocides that have happened throughout history. One thing that was very prominent to me was the fact that she was not afraid to bring up current events, including the European Refugee Crisis going on. She was very adamant that countries need to let in refugees, especially since during the Holocaust hardly any countries let Jewish refugees in. Another point that she made was that not only Jews were murdered during the Holocaust. Six million Jews were murdered but five million homosexual, disabled, Roma, and others were murdered too. These were people who had ordinary lives with families, and who had not committed any crime other than being themselves.

The main point that Veffer got across was that someone should never be a bystander in a case of injustice, no matter how small it may be. Pretending that something is out of your personal control and that nothing can be done to change what is happening is the worst thing someone could do. So many people claim that they had no idea that during the Holocaust people were being sent to Concentration Camps. But Veffer proved that this was an impossible action. Instead, Veffer proclaims, people need to be the up-standers in society. Up-standers make sure that injustice does not roll under the radar without any consequence. Up-standers do what is right in the most difficult of times.

“Be an up-stander, and start making some chicken soup.”

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Zoe Levine is an eighteen year old senior at McDowell High School in Erie, Pennsylvania. She participates in Mock Trial, Model UN (as president), Key Club, Vocal Ensemble, International Thespians Society, and Exposure (as social media coordinator). She is also president of her Jewish Youth Group, president of a youth volunteering program, and vice president of French Club. She works at a local farmer's market and as a Teaching Assistant at her synagogue. In her free time she loves to travel, write, read, watch TV and movies, and listen to music. She is a feminist and would love to pursue journalism. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @xzoelevine, VSCO at xzoelevine.vsco.co, and goodreads at goodreads.com/zoelevine. You can reach her at zoedlevine@gmail.com for business inquiries.

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