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This is the story of Marga Steinhardt. She was born in a town in central Germany in 1927. She was a young child when Hitler came to power. Friends urged her parents to leave Germany for France or Palestine or the United States, but her father didn’t believe the warnings. He thought they were exaggerated.
“I remember overhearing talk between my parents, and my father said, ‘You worry too much. It’s not going to get that bad. Hitler talks a lot. The world will not tolerate for Hitler to do what he’s saying he’s going to do.’ He just couldn’t believe it. Even later, when we were already deported, he would not accept that there were mass killings. He’d say, ‘Have you seen it? Can you prove it?’ ”
When they finally sought an exit visa, there were 27,000 people ahead of them. No one wanted them anyway. The world closed its doors to Jews.
Marga and her family went through the worst of the Holocaust. Labor camps, concentration camps, forced marches.
The story she tells is a microcosm of the experiences of European Jewry, most of whom perished (including every member of my family who had not migrated to the United States in the 19th or early 20th centuries).
The same day that I read her story, I responded to someone who asked why the public was so unmoved by 400,000 COVID deaths.
Typically people are unmoved by mass deaths. A number like 400,000 or six million deaths does not touch people’s emotions. The story of one person’s suffering does. The particulars matter. People remember Anne Frank because they know her story. Read Marga’s story.