Ethel Katz has already told her story of survival more times than she could ever remember, but her eyes still filled with tears when she was asked once again to share her memories of living through the Holocaust.
And because of her fluid narration ability, she has become one of the most sought-after storytellers at the Kupferberg Holocaust Center at Queensborough Community College, the college said.
“She is a gem and, like many of our survivors, unique,” the college said.
At 90 years old, Katz said she is prepared to share her history with anyone willing to listen, whether it is at QCC or neighboring Holocaust centers in the area. The Little Neck survivor said she continues to revisit some of the most horrific memories of her lifetime because she has a responsibility to keep the story of the Holocaust alive for generations to come.
“Anyone I talk to, I always ask them, ‘Please remember what happened. Tell your children,’” Katz said.
Katz grew up with her family in the small city of Buchach, Poland, where she said her life changed forever July 5, 1941. As soon as Adolf Hitler’s forces arrived in the region, Katz said the atrocities began immediately.
Then-17-year-old Katz was put to work on a local farm while her other siblings were dispersed through other forced labor assignments. She remembered how her twin brother Mordecai Dawid Katz was the first of her family members to disappear after reporting to a local police station, where he was eventually held captive and murdered.
“I could not believe civilized people could do something like that,” Katz said of her initial reaction to the killings.
Katz spent years living in fear of being captured and killed, running with her family from one temporary safe haven to the next until they were finally spotted March 8, 1944, while hiding in a farmhouse outside the city. Katz, her sister and two brothers fled the house while her father urged them on, until they were ultimately captured. While she played dead after being struck in the back of her head, Katz said her family was taken out into a nearby field and murdered, leaving her alone.
“I wanted to run,” Katz said. “But I kept asking, ‘Where should I run?’”
She spent the following months hiding alone in a false wall inside a home occupied by German soldiers until the city was liberated, consuming only one ounce of bread a day.
While recollecting her thoughts and retelling her tales, Katz used specific dates for different memories from the day her family went into hiding to the last moment she ever saw her father and brothers before they were murdered by Nazis.
“I remember everything,” Katz said. “It is all in here,” as she motioned to her heart.
As she told her story, her daughter Felice Katz sat and listened to what she had already memorized. As a second generation link to a Holocaust survivor, she said it was important to keep her mother’s story alive.
“It is an obligation,” Felice Katz said. “It is not an easy burden to bear. My whole life is different because of these stories, which are so valuable as time goes on.”
That is what keeps Ethel Katz coming back to different Holocaust centers throughout the region, including the one at Queensborough Community College in Bayside, with hopes that the stories of the Holocaust would never be forgotten.
Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4573.
©2012 Community News Group
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