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Ilse Heyman, Holocaust Survivor Visits Seventh Grade Scholars At CSUS

Ilse Heyman, Holocaust Survivor Visits 7th Grade Scholars at CSUS
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By: Rafael, Grade 7

Ilse Heyman is a 91 yr. old woman living in Cambridge. What makes her extraordinary is the fact that she is a survivor of the Holocaust, the mass murder of 6 million Jews and 5 million other human beings. “It was very surprising to see a real Holocaust survivor in front of your face.” She told us that a big part of her survival depended being near friends and maintaining some kind of sense of humor. It was really frightening to hear what happened like getting so little to eat and having no access to things we take for granted like a toothbrush and a shower! What I learned from Ilse, is that we are very lucky to be free from the extreme level of hatred and discrimination that she and millions of others faced including kids our age. These days we able to go to school and learn, be safe, have fun, and be grateful for what have.

Ilse Heyman’s entire family was deported from Nazi-occupied Holland in 1943 (they had immigrated to Amsterdam in 1933 when Hitler came to power), Ilse was sent to a slave labor camp in Holland, where she assembled radio tubes for German airplanes. The operation was run by Philips, the Dutch electronics company, to save their many Jewish employees. She and her group of women, seventeen to twenty-one years old, were sent to Auschwitz briefly when the Allied invasion of Europe was imminent and escaped death by being moved throughout Germany to work. Toward the end of the war, after being marched and transported by cattle car from camp to camp in a bitterly cold winter, Ilse’s small group was exchanged for German prisoners of war and taken to Sweden by the Red Cross. Her parents, brother, and grandmother all died in the Holocaust.

She was a volunteer in the Cambridge School System for fifteen years, and she has told her personal history to many grateful students. On May 11, 2005 Ilse Heyman was the principal speaker at the annual Holocaust Commemoration in Cambridge. On November 1, 2005, she received a Peace and Justice Award from the City of Cambridge.

Excerpted from Miller, E. (2006)  The Window Shop: Safe Harbor for Refugees, 1939-1972 NY. iUniverse, Inc