An amazing opportunity arose last week, for all budding historians of St Marylebone school. Hephzibah the daughter of Zahava came to talk to us about her mother’s experience during WW2 and the traumatic events that she encountered, simply because she was Jewish.
Zahava was born in Palestine before WW2 to a Jewish family, which included her, her brother Jehudi and her parents.
When the Nazi occupation of Holland began in 1940, Zahava and her family were forced to be smuggled out of the country, however, there was a massive worry that Zahava’s younger brother Jehudi, might make noise during the trip, resulting in them being caught. After much deliberation, this led to him being handed to the Dutch resistance and living with them until the end of the war.
During this time, Zahava and her parents were sent to Westerbork, a transit camp, where they lived in horrifying conditions. They were forced to survive on essentially no food and sleep on planks of wood. Zahava talked about her mother’s most vivid memory about role call, which was when every member of the camp had to stand outside in lines for hours on end, often in thick layers of snow while they were wearing little to no clothing.
This was an effort by the Nazis to humiliate and essentially let people die slow and painful deaths. After a period of time spent at the camp, Zahava’s family had been placed on the lists for those who were going to be transported to Auschwitz, an extermination camp, where most likely Zahava and her family wouldn’t have survived. By a stroke of luck, they were able to avoid being transported and stayed in the camp until its liberation in 1945.
Many unique artefacts were shown by Hephzibah throughout the talk, such as the tin bowls used in the camp and a photo from the Dutch resistance that was smuggled in through a bag of raw beans. The photo was a picture of Jehudi who was no longer a baby, but a young boy. Eventually, at the end of the war, the family were reunited and after practically losing everything, their friends, family and possessions, Zahava and her family started to rebuild their lives. Only in recent years has Zahava started to share her story with others and written an awe-inspiring book Fragments of a lost childhood.
Hephzibah’s talk reminds us that the holocaust and all those who suffered under the Nazi regime should never be forgotten, they still affect the lives of their survivors and future generations.
Written by Ava 9B