Holocaust survivor shares his story

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Holocaust survivor shares his story

Kathleen Price, Staff Writer

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“The stars only reminded us that we were not alone in our journey for survival,” said Dr. Henry Fenichel. Dr. Fenichel was born on April 13, 1938, in the Netherlands. He went into hiding at the age of two when the Nazis invaded Holland.

Dr. Fenichel came to the middle school to tell the students about his journey.  He presented his story to the eighth graders at Highlands Performing Arts Center.  His story chronicled his suffering and triumph.

The Holocaust is marked in history as a time when unspeakable crimes were committed. In 1941, Hitler and the Nazi Youth Party took power in Germany and other parts of Europe. Hitler’s purpose in all of this was to create the perfect race no matter what it took. To fulfill his quest, he took Jews, homosexuals, gypsy’s, and anyone who disagreed with his tactics, and put them into concentration, death, or labor camps. The Nazi’s created the perfect killing machine, the gas chamber.

At this same time, there were restrictions set for the Jews such as no traveling or technology, a time frame was set for shopping, and a curfew. The aforementioned yellow patches made of thin fabric in the shape of the Star of David were attached to their clothing on both the front and the back. These stars were used as a way to identify Jews anywhere. A life like this is a nightmare, but Dr. Fenichel actually lived it. His bravery is seen through his time in the camps and his recovery after.

On May 15, 1943, Dr. Fenichel was forced out of hiding and taken to a camp in Holland, Westerbork. Westerbork was set up to be a transit camp where prisoners were held until they could later be deported to a new camp. At this point, the family was separated.  Dr. Fenichel’s father was sent to Auschwitz work and death camp. He was executed.  Dr. Fenichel and his mother were spared Auschwitz but were shipped to another camp called Bergen-Belsen.

This was the same camp where Anne Frank and her sister, Margot died. The living conditions were terrible due to overcrowding and a shortage of supplies and food. “The meals at Bergen-Belson were non-nutritional, black bread and soup. You were lucky if you found a few potatoes peels in the soup,” said Dr. Fenichel. After everyone did eat, the children were in charge of cleaning the dishes. In Dr. Fenichel’s case, this was a luxury. He hoped that he would find the littlest bit of food scraps for extra nutrition.

For Dr. Fenichel and his mother, there was hope.  After Dr. Fenichel and his mother were transported to Bergen-Belsen, they were later exchanged for German civilians held abroad. For four months, Dr. Fenichel and his mother waited for their I.D. papers to make their way to Bergen-Belsen. Once the papers finally arrived, Dr. Fenichel and his mother arrived in Palestine after a 10-day journey. Soon after arrival, Dr. Fenichel’s mother is accused of not being a fit parent, and the two are separated. Dr. Fenichel spent the rest of his childhood in Palestine at a boarding school for boys. Eventually, Dr. Fenichel and his mother were reunited.

Good things were in store for Dr. Fenichel and his mother’s future. His mother had remarried, and together, the family migrated to New York and lived in Brooklyn. It wasn’t until Dr. Fenichel decided to teach that he left New York to move to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he is a Professor Emeritus of physics at the University of Cincinnati. Dr. Fenichel still lives there today with his wife and two daughters, Jo and Debbie. His life is now peaceful.

In the “Story of a Star Child”, Dr. Fenichel described his purpose in sharing his story. He said, “I hope for the best. By telling this story, I hope that the next generation can do all they can to make the world a better place.” Dr. Fenichel did indeed live a nightmare. “The best revenge is a life well lived.” –Chloe Neill.