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Survivor of Holocaust Gives Lesson in Caring
Published in Trenton Times
by Andrea Alexander, Staff Writer
The most frightening time of day for Maud Dahme when she was hiding from the Nazis during her childhood in Holland was the morning.
"I'd wake and not know if this was the day they were going to find us," she told a group of fourth-graders yesterday at the Antheil Elementary School.
"My sister and I had to change our names and we couldn't go to school. We didn't even know where our parents were when we were in hiding," she said. "There was nothing. No food. During the occupation the Germans took everything to eat."
the past two days, Dahme, now
vice president of the New Jersey
State Board of Education, told
her story to all fourth and
fifth grade classes in Ewing.
The Nazis wanted to kill her because she was Jewish, she said, an idea most of the fourth-graders found difficult to understand.
It is hard to believe, but I know there are people out there who are not good, and they do terrible things," fourth-grader Carlos Molina said after the talk.
Dahme told the students about the two families who took her and her sister, Rita, in. At the time, Dahme was 6 years old and her sister was 4.
She told the students that some people dies in the gas chambers, but she intentionally avoided focusing on the atrocities. Instead, she emphasized that some people cared enough to risk their lives to protect the Jews.
After the classroom session she observed, "As adults, we all know what happened in Europe. I think it is more important to talk about the caring, so children can get an understanding of what it means to help people."
At the beginning of her talks, Dahme said she usually asks students if they would help someone, the way the families back in Holland helped her. Few children raise their hands. But when she is done and asks the same question, Dahme said every hand in the room goes up.
Dahme begins her story by explaining, "My family got a letter from the Germans that said we were supposed to take a train to a work camp. We didn't know then what it meant, but my parents heard about an underground railroad that was hiding families, and they let my sister and I go."
After a few months in hiding, the underground railroad informed them that Nazis were coming to search the village for Jews. The children were sent to stay with a second family in the country, and that is where they remained for the duration of the war.
Dahme said her parents weren't told where their children were sent. It was safer that way, she said, because if her parents were caught, they wouldn't be able to give the Germans any information.
When Canadian troops liberated the town where Dahme was hiding, she learned her parents had survived by hiding in a neighbor's attic for three years.
After her talk, many students who questioned Dahme could not understand why the Nazis wanted to kill all the Jews. "Why did they make you wear stars on your clothes," one student asked. "To degrade us," Dahme answered. "Why did Hitler hate the Jews," asked another. "I think he was jealous, but I don't know," she answered.
The afternoon left fourth-grader Joban Brar worried about her Jewish friends, because she said she doesn't know who would save them if the Holocaust happened again. "It is so sad to hear her talk," Joban said. "My friend's grandparents died during World War II. To make her feel better, I told her I'd pray it never happens again."
The core mission of the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education is to promote Holocaust education in the State of New Jersey. On a continual basis, the Commission shall survey the status of Holocaust/Genocide Education; design, encourage nd promote the implementation of Holocaust and genocide education and awareness; provide programs in New Jersey; and coordinate designated events that will provide appropriate memorialization of the Holocaust on a regular basis throughout the state. The Commission will provide assistance and advice to the public and private schools and will meet with county and local school officials, and other interested public and private organizations, to assist with the study of the Holocaust and genocide.
We invite you to find out more, whether you require Group or Company specific information, simply explore the site using the links to the left.
Phil Kirschner, Esq.
Dr. Paul B. Winkler
State of New Jersey
Commission on Holocaust Education
P.O. Box 500
Trenton, NJ 08625