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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow Lessons from Nazi camps

Lessons from Nazi camps

Former concentration camp prisoners Rose Meyer (left) and Henry Ebstein watch as Mine Grasetti describes her experiences during the war. (Matt Thurlow/Copyright 2002, The Union Democrat).
Former concentration camp prisoners Rose Meyer (left) and Henry Ebstein watch as Mine Grasetti describes her experiences during the war. (Matt Thurlow/Copyright 2002, The Union Democrat).

By JASON ECK

Sonora High School students Wednesday learned firsthand a lesson in history that a textbook can't begin to capture.

About 200 social studies students heard personal stories from a group of Holocaust survivors and others who were affected in some way by Adolf Hitler's atrocities during World War II.

Social studies teacher Pete Smith told students he tried to gather a group of people who brought home the Holocaust and other events of World War II that students had before only read about in books, heard about in lectures or experienced in films.

These were real stories of those who lived through the Holocaust as youths. Like the story of Rose Meyer of Stockton, who at 12 years old was one of the youngest workers in a Nazi concentration camp. She said she and others in the camp worked for weeks up to their knees in snow clearing railroad tracks.

"I didn't have to learn to work," she said. "I knew how to work."

Living conditions inside the camp were filthy. She said she didn't eat for the first couple of weeks and when she did get to eat, the food was dirty. A piece of bread was the only food each day — and it was frozen, as was the water she had for drinking.

"When we did get something to eat, it was fish heads," she said, or soup she couldn't eat because the carrots and potatoes in it were rotten. No meat was offered.

Meyer survived, but her mother and sister were among the millions of Jews who were killed. Meyer said her family members were shot, put in a mass grave, doused with gasoline and burned.

Another survivor, Henry Ebstein of Stockton, whose immediate family fled from Germany to China, noted 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust, 1.5 million of which were children. He said his family was "very fortunate to escape."

Fritzi Chandler of Sonora, originally from Czechoslovakia, told of helping her father escape from a Nazi work camp.

While not a Jew, Chandler had befriended Jews and spoke German fluently. Her mother was Austrian.

Chandler was in the German army, which used her for her secretarial skills. She was stationed in France.

While on leave from the army, she learned her father was imprisoned in a concentration camp and was being punished for giving food away. He had also been beaten.


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