Life-affirming lessons from Holocaust survivors

With their infectious attitudes, bubbly personalities, and overall joyful demeanors, Edith, Mary Bauer, and Martha Sternback, are the embodiment of “not letting them win.” LAMOTH’s L’Dough V’Dough program (a play on the Hebrew, L’Dor V’Dor--from generation to generation) brings together survivors with participants from local schools and organizations. They spend a few hours together braiding challah dough, and while the challah bakes, hearing the survivors’ powerful stories.

By Dara Biton

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Edith Frankie was born in Transylvania, which at the time was a part of Hungary. Soon after Nazi Germany invaded Hungary, at just 13 years old, Edith was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Initially separated from her father and brother, she and her sister were sent to a labor camp in Latvia, separating them from their mother as well. They were then transported to Stutthof Concentration Camp in Poland. A death march took them to Bergen-Belsen and Ravensbruck, finally arriving at the Malchow Concentration Camp in Germany, from which they were liberated in May 1945. And yet you would never know it. You would never know that any of three female survivors YWLN-LA met with in December at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust (LAMOTH) were a part of the worst atrocity of the 20th century.

With their infectious attitudes, bubbly personalities, and overall joyful demeanors, Edith, Mary Bauer, and Martha Sternback, are the embodiment of “not letting them win.” LAMOTH’s L’Dough V’Dough program (a play on the Hebrew, L’Dor V’Dor--from generation to generation) brings together survivors with participants from local schools and organizations. They spend a few hours together braiding challah dough, and while the challah bakes, hearing the survivors’ powerful stories.

This program is now more important than ever. As survivors grow older, and ultimately pass, we will have fewer and fewer face-to-face and first-hand accounts. My grandparents were survivors. My Polish grandfather was transferred to my grandmother’s ghetto in Russia. My grandma's sister was a volunteer and brought home my grandpa and a few others. My grandparents were never in a camp but spent the war years on the run in a Siberian forest. My aunt was born in Austria during my family’s journey to America. The family eventually settled in Chicago, where my mother was born a few months later. Both of my grandparents lived long lives, well into their late 90s, and were the epitome of classic Ashkenazi Jewish grandparents!

From Mrs. Frankie asking for more challah dough to make her final challah bigger, to Mrs. Bauer’s mile-a-minute storytelling, to Mrs. Sternback bringing candies for her table of attendees, to my grandmother holding the microphone like a telephone at my brother’s bar mitzvah, to my grandfather telling my brothers and me during visits that “the TV is crying” when we were watching too much television. These little life-affirming moments, as well as their larger stories of the war and survival, are what Holocaust remembrance is all about.

 
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Dara Biton is a Chicago native who moved to Los Angeles to work in the entertainment industry. She received a degree from Indiana University where she majored in Fine Arts and minored in Education. Dara has gained experience in all aspects of the entertainment field ranging from acting, writing, producing, and new media. She currently works at a production company, developing various television and film projects. When Dara isn't working, she can be found playing with her husky dog, Aurora, cheering on the Cubs, dreaming of new travel destinations, and spending time with family and friends!