by KIERYN RUBY
This past week, I was given the honor of hearing and talking to an incredible woman named Elane Geller who, as a small child, lived through four years in a concentration camp during the Holocaust.
Her story begins on the day the Nazis invaded her small Polish town. Her father tried to send her off to live with a Christian family; however, others who tried to do the same were killed. Her father took a chance and brought Elane with him to the town square where the Nazis were rounding them up. When they reached the town square, the horrible massacre began. Elane lost her mother, siblings, grandparents, and uncles. Then the remaining townspeople were sent to the camps. Elane was brought to a camp and thankfully her aunt was brought to the same one. Every day was a struggle because her aunt would go to work, and Elane would sit in the barracks praying she would come home. She did not have a job, so she would wander around and steal and eat anything she could find. Along with starving every day, she was bitten regularly by dogs which has made her terrified of animals to this day. The most horrifying thing was that she believed seeing dead bodies and hearing gun shots every day was normal.
Liberation came four years later when Elane was eight years old. Her camp was liberated by the British and they dropped candy on the ground. She had no idea what candy was at that point, so she was pretty confused when people started eating it off the ground. Luckily, she found most of her family members due to them putting ads in the newspapers. She was brought to the U.S. on the first ship back, and that is where she met her first colored man who gave her her very first orange. She now has an extreme sense of nationalism and pride for her country. She believes her survival was an accident and completely random.
Elane has been sharing her story for about twenty years and she wants to make sure high school students understand how powerful they are when they speak up against hate and question others about their actions.