Once upon a time, in my younger years, before the world was set ablaze, I lived the good life. I had no fears, no worries, a loving family, lots of friends, laughter, dancing and singing. What a joy life was. Everybody had a name, everybody had a face.
For me the sun was always shining bright, the fragrance of blooming flowers everywhere, the birds sang their melodies in tune. If the sky had dark clouds, I did not see them; if it was cold and wet outside, it did not bother me; I felt warm and secure.
In my blindness or innocence, it never crossed my mind that everything could change so drastically. Sometimes when I cried, for what must have been an unimportant reason, my sweet, dear and oh-so-wise mother would so, "Dry your eyes, my darling, and save your tears for when you really need them." I thought, what a strange thing to say. I later wondered if she had a premonition, had she known something I was not aware of.
Then, as in ancient times, a tyrant came to power. All that had been good and decent vanished; hate and evil triumphed. This demagogue and his consorts wanted all the Jews murdered. They were gathered, thrown into cattle cars, tortured, used as human guinea pigs, robbed of their dignity, their spirit, in a most atrocious way.
They were brought to one of the most lugubrious and desolate places in the world. There they were disposed of in a worse way than animals. They were pushed into big, black ovens, hundreds of them at the same time -- men, women and children. The poor, poor children -- 1 1/2 million of them, they had not even a chance to live yet.
Big red flames spew their choking odors of burned flesh and poisonous gas high into the air, ashes were spread all around. Nobody seemed to hear the sorrowful cries for help. Would anybody ever comprehend the depth of this enormous tragedy. It went on for years.
When it was all over there was this scary deadly silence, a great big emptiness. They called this most tragic event ever, a Holocaust; definition, total destruction of human life, by fire. Few people came out of this hell. I am one of them.
Experts came up with a statistic, a number -- 6 million. They had no names nor faces; they were only shadows now.
To me, they were not a statistic or a number; they were the souls of my brethren. I knew and felt that their souls would forever be entwined with mine. I cried and cried till I had no more tears. I then understood what my dear mother had meant. I felt so sad, not even for my suffering but for 6 million humans whose only crime had been that they were Jews.
I had so many questions. How could the so-called civilized world have tolerated this unbelievable cruel injustice? How could I go on living? How come I was still alive? Where and when was I to start anew?
One thing I was sure of, that this was not only a loss for us as Jews, but a loss to mankind.
But God gave me strength and courage. Slowly I learned to start living and to cope. I got married again to a sweet, caring man, Louis Van Thyn. He understood; he had lived through the same horrendous experience.
We have two children, one of each -- a boy and a girl. We are fortunate to have come to this country and Shreveport with the help of some wonderful people, the Gilbert family, and the Shreveport Jewish Federation. We will never forget that.
... We have a family again. They make life worth living. I thank God every day for all the blessings.
People tell me I was lucky. That is really not the word. Lucky is when you win a lottery. I did not win anything. I was given something, the most precious gift, a second chance at life.
I will forever grieve in my heart for 11 million people who perished lonely and forsaken. I realize now that I have an obligation to them, to tell of their suffering to anybody who wants to hear and learn of the Holocaust.
Although the sun does not shine as bright as before, the fragrance of blooming flowers has dwindled somewhat, the birds sing out of tune now and then, and I can see clouds in the sky now, I am very blessed. God has been good to me.