January 27th is Holocaust Remembrance Day. As we reflect on this tragic event, we honor the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust, and the millions of others affected by the Nazi regime. We also want to take the time to celebrate the amazing lives of survivors, heroes and descendants of those who lived through these trying times. This date was chosen by the United Nations as it commemorates the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Within our own communities, we are honoring Holocaust Remembrance Day by sharing the story of Wanda V. Wanda is currently the oldest resident of Tampa Gardens Senior Living, at 96 years old, and is a Holocaust survivor.
Wanda is a joyful person, who still enjoys the many activities and events at Tampa Gardens Senior Living. And with her 97th birthday coming up later this year, she is proud to say she is still walking - with assistance - and getting the most out of life each day.
Though her memories aren’t as clear as they once were, Wanda was gracious enough to share a little about her experiences during World War II, and talk about how the Holocaust affected her and her family.
Q: Tell us about your memories of your family and community before the war.
"Everything was good, I was very happy as a child helping my mother and sister."
Q: Did you or your family experience acts of persecution in your community?
"Germany was doing harm to my community and my people."
Q: Did anyone help you during the Holocaust?
"No, everyone helped themselves."
Q: Did your family seek to move away from your community or seek to immigrate?
“My family left the country."
Q: Did an individual or an organization assist you or your family to immigrate to the United States?
"My husband. He was in the military."
Q: Were you separated from your family?
"Yes. When I was 15 years old."
Q: Where did you live during the war? Did you experience life in a ghetto or concentration camp?
"I was living in Germany under the conditions of terrible people."
Q: What moment or choice made a difference in your life?
"My experience during the war."
Q: What helped you survive the war and the Holocaust?
"My connections to the military saved me and gave me an opportunity to interpret for many people in Germany at the time." Wanda speaks 6 different languages!
Q: What was your life like in the years immediately following the war?
"I survived, things began to adjust to new situations and everything was fine."
Q: How did you adjust to life in the United States once you immigrated?
"I did not like it at first, because American people were cold to people like me and from where I came from. After 80 or so years I feel that I have adjusted to the culture."
Sharing the stories of those affected by the Holocaust helps us to remember not only our history, but reminds us to reflect on our own experiences. Wanda’s story is one of perseverance and inspiration. Through her language skills and family’s support, she was able to find a path and make a new life for herself in America.
Today, we take the time to honor her, other survivors, and those that were lost. The events and the individuals affected by the Holocaust will never be forgotten.