Archive for Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Holocaust survivor recounts story to students

Showing a picture of two officers of the Gestapo, Holocaust survivor Eva Edmands, discusses with St. John Catholic School sixth-graders Wednesday her experience of being a ”hidden child” in France during the Holocaust.

Showing a picture of two officers of the Gestapo, Holocaust survivor Eva Edmands, discusses with St. John Catholic School sixth-graders Wednesday her experience of being a ”hidden child” in France during the Holocaust.

March 28, 2012


Few are as qualified to talk about the dangers of bigotry and intolerance as Holocaust survivor Eva Edmands.

Holocaust survivor Eva Edmands, Lawrence, shared this map of her family’s moves, who were in hiding during the Holocaust, in a visit with sixth-graders at St. John Catholic School.

Holocaust survivor Eva Edmands, Lawrence, shared this map of her family’s moves, who were in hiding during the Holocaust, in a visit with sixth-graders at St. John Catholic School.

On Wednesday afternoon, Edmands visited with sixth-graders studying the Holocaust at St. John Catholic School.

Edmands, who was born the same year as Anne Frank, also went into hiding as a child and kept a diary. As she talked, Edmands pointed to a map of France, passed out photos of herself as a young girl and showed copies of a fake French identity card.

Edmands has shared her stories hundreds of times to schools, civic groups and churches. She does so to keep the tragedies of the Holocaust alive.

“The great fear we have as survivors, because we are going to be gone in a few years, is who is going to keep the story going?” Edmands asked the class.

She urged them to learn from history.

“Whenever you hear somebody say something nasty about someone else, it is your duty to speak up,” she said. “Will you promise me that?”

‘Things would never be the same’

Edmands began her story in Austria, a country that was “like a little mouse surrounded by big cats.” Her parents were Jewish, although they didn’t practice the faith. Her father was a journalist and her family lived in a nice apartment in Vienna.

“I had everything a little girl my age would want,” she said.

But that was before 1938, when Germany invaded Austria. Edmands was in second grade, and other children began calling her terrible names and hitting her.

“I didn’t understand why they were doing it. I was a little child,” she told the class. “That was the beginning of when I realized things would never be the same.”

Two Gestapo officers and their vicious dog came to her house and took her father away for questioning. Three days later he returned.

“We knew we had to leave, because it was dangerous,” Edmands said.

Before she left, she collected the names of her family and friends in an autograph book. “Don’t ever forget your grandma and grandpa,” is among the messages written in it.

When the Gestapo returned to the house and found her dad missing, Edmands said, they went to her grandparents’ house.

“They took (my grandmother) away screaming,” she said. “She died in a camp, and my grandpa did too. One of the reasons I give this talk is to preserve their memory.”

Living conditions

The family fled to Paris, taking a train that passed through Germany on the way. In France, they lived in a tiny apartment with Edmands and her mother sharing a bed and her father sleeping in the attic.

After Germany’s occupation of Paris, Edmands father was shipped to a labor camp in the south of France. Edmands and her mother left Paris to be with her father, a journey of more than 600 miles that required crossing from the part of France that was occupied by Germany to the area controlled by France. Edmands crawled through barbwire in a dress to cross the border.

When her father was warned that he was about to be sent to Germany, the family fled again and made an unsuccessful attempt to cross into neutral Switzerland.

The family finally found shelter with the Roman Catholic priest L’abbe Claudius Longeray in the rectory of Saint Martin, a mountaintop parish in Annecy, France. Longeray hid them in an unused boiler room in the subbasement of the rectory.

“It was no bigger than your average walk-in closet. No windows, just a door going into the fields,” she told the class.

Her father would sneak out at night to chop wood, and they had a garden plot for planting vegetables and potatoes. Edmands was able to attend school, and in the summer she watched the priest’s flock of 30 sheep.

For three years, they were cared for by the priest.

“Here was a man who lived the faith every day,” Edmands said. “To me, he was a saint.”

In the years after France was liberated, Edmands’ family immigrated to the United States. But not before she made a promise to herself.

“When we finally left, I made a vow that I wanted the whole world to know what this man had done for us,” she told the class.

After his death, the priest was awarded the Medal of the Just, the highest honor given by The Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. On the medal, which is displayed in the father’s church, are the words from the Talmud: “He who saves one life saves all of humanity.”

“Isn’t that beautiful?” Edmands asked the class.


jhawkinsf 6 years ago

The only correction I might add is that of Germany's "invasion" of Austria. It's hard to call it an invasion when no shots are fired the people are waving Nazi flags and cheering wildly.

pace 6 years ago

You are welcome to your view, I appreciate her view a bit more. While you are correct that some cheered, you are incorrect that it was not an invasion. This is a good reason it is so important that real witnesses of history are heard. Thanks to this woman who gives her time and shares the painful past with the students and with us. I respect her voice.

jhawkinsf 6 years ago

I did not mean to dispute anything about this woman's story. I was just suggesting that Germany's invasion was non-violent, not something we usually associate with the word invasion. It was more like a unification of two peoples who share a lot of history, language, culture.

ktbob1954 6 years ago

You need to re-read your history books. The "invasion" of Austria was ANYTHING but non-violent. Most of the photos and film footage you see is staged. There was much violence, intimidation, fear, and FORCE to Germany's "invasion" of Austria. There was no choice given to anyone living in complied, or you were killed or deported to death camps, end of options.

pace 6 years ago

That is consistent with the versions I read.

jhawkinsf 6 years ago

Everything I've read and seen suggest that Austrian threw flowers at the invading Germans. They enthusiastically welcomed the Nazis as they entered. Perhaps they didn't fight because they were afraid of Germany's might. But whatever the reason, they didn't fight. They cheered. To use the same word, "invasion" to describe that event and say, Germany's invasion of Poland is to distort reality. BTW - This was Germany's first military adventure of what would become WW II. Austria may have feared Germany, but it's difficult to understand why. Germany's might would have been unknown and a look back revealed a clumsy and uncoordinated invasion. The reason it took only hours was because there was no resistance.

pace 6 years ago

Try reading history books instead of watching "Sound of Music" I find your remarks so disrespectful they make me sick. Again, you are welcome to your opinion,.

jhawkinsf 6 years ago

Just curious, but who is being disrespected by my remark and why. Just to refresh my memory, I glanced at Wikipedia and they very much agreed with my position.

pace 6 years ago

I appreciated the woman's story, You felt the need to correct her version. Your version did not correspond to my reading of history, but it did correspond to a singular view of the events. You are welcome to your opinion. You have the right to insist that your correction of her version is right. I have no idea what the lady would say, she is from the place and from the time, was there. She might or might not agree with you in general or in specific. What are you after? That she was wrong and you were right?

pace 6 years ago

If anyone is foolish enough to read this exchange, at no point did I mean that Austria had a large armed resistance when they were invaded. The Nazis had many sympathizers and there was a strong Austrian Nazi political party. From wikipedia "Hitler's forces worked to suppress any opposition. Before the first German soldier crossed the border, Heinrich Himmler and a few SS officers landed in Vienna to arrest prominent representatives of the First Republic, such as Richard Schmitz, Leopold Figl, Friedrich Hillegeist and Franz Olah. During the few weeks between the Anschluss and the plebiscite, authorities rounded up Social Democrats, Communists and other potential political dissenters, as well as Jews, and imprisoned them or sent them to concentration camps. Within only a few days of 12 March, 70,000 people had been arrested."

nbaumann 6 years ago

Another excellent resource for learning about the Holocaust is the book Storming the Tulips, written by a Holocaust survivor who went to school with Anne Frank. Storming the Tulips is an intimate encounter with history, as told by twenty former students of the 1st Montessori School in Amsterdam. They were children—contemporaries of Anne Frank—and this book is a companion to her Diary of a Young Girl. While Anne’s story describes her sequestered life in the Annex, Storming the Tulips reveals what children on the outside endured—on the streets, in hiding, and in the concentration camps. Their friends disappeared. Their parents sent them away. They were herded on trains and sent to death camps. They joined the Nazi youth. They hid Jews. They lost their families. They picked the pockets of the dead. They escaped. They dodged bullets. They lived in terror. They starved. They froze. They ate tulip bulbs. They witnessed a massacre. They collected shrapnel. And finally, they welcomed the Liberation. Some lost their families, most lost their homes, but they all lost their innocence as they fought to survive in a world gone mad.

FlintlockRifle 6 years ago

There are some people who clam this never happened, this lady is living proff and is willing to share her childhood horror story, many thanks to you young lady-----

Lawrence Morgan 6 years ago

Very many thanks for sharing this. Lawrence

Lenette Hamm 6 years ago

Bless you Eva, for all of your wisdom and the willingness to share your life story with others. I cannot imagine all that you went through with your family, and how hard this must have been to talk about in the beginning. You are a very brave and delightful woman, and I'm honored to know you. I only hope that no one will ever have to endure what so many went through during that time in history.

Mike Ford 6 years ago

My father will be going to the Dietrich Bonhoeffer theological meeting in Stockholm, Sweden this summer. Reverend Bonhoeffer attempted to infiltrate the SS and assassinate Adolf Hitler. He and some relatives were found out and hung by the SS and the rest of the famliy went into hiding from the Nazis. German attendees at the Bonhoeffer meeting in Berlin in 2000 apologized to the attendees from other countries for the atrocities that Mrs. Edmands and other targeted people like the Romani (Gypsies), Jehovah's Witnesses, and Gay people suffered through. Hopefully people like Mrs. Edmands open the eyes of people to the atrocities that have happened worldwide including the ones here in the US who unfortunately use religious beliefs to judge people much like the denominations who were complicit with Adolf Hitler in the pursuit of judgemental nationalism and the purging of non aryan and non christian people. If people don't pay attention history repeats itself and people wonder what happened after the fact and don't want to face the realities. I give German people credit for addressing their past and legally banning current neo-nazis in public and putting an nazi advocating author in jail not long ago. America could learn something here.

tomatogrower 6 years ago

I've seen this woman speak. Very interesting story. Thanks.

Christine Anderson 6 years ago

What an incredible woman. I have a question. Eva mentions she and her mother had to cross through Nazi-occupied territory to be with her father. Was the labor camp her father was sent to in French-held territory? If so, how was it a labor camp was allowed to exist in an area not held by Germany?

Jean Robart 6 years ago

Maybe the way internment camps were allowed to happen in the US for people of German and Japanese nationality.

tomatogrower 6 years ago

When Ms. Edmands says French held territory she is referring to Vichy French. They were a puppet government put into place, but they were under German control.

Paul R Getto 6 years ago

Thank you for your story; we all need to keep hearing it over and over. FWIW, there was a labor camp behind the old Stokley's plant in East Lawrence. As I understand it, back then it was a shoe factory and the Italian prisoners worked there. Anyone else heard that one?

kcowsert4 6 years ago

This story about one person's horrific tragedies during the Holocaust should be passed on through many generations. If we allow ourselves to forget what happened during the Holocaust, we will just repeat the same gruesome things in the future, therefore we should always remember what happened in those dark years. Millions of people died because one man thought that they were inferior, and the world should never let that happen again. I think that Eva is a hero for telling her story to so many people and carrying on her legacy through sharing with these elementary children.

tomatogrower 6 years ago

Maybe we should remember all war dead. War is a stupid thing. Unfortunately it will still keep happening, but it's still stupid.

Rae Hudspeth 6 years ago

Another treasure of this experience is teaching children by example to honor the experience and stories of their elders. How wonderful that she has pictures to share with them, holding a piece of history puts such a real stamp on hearing the stories.

FlintlockRifle 6 years ago

China, you are right, some of the building are still there the long narrow ones. Mr. Park Hetzel did own them at one time. Back in early 40's when they grew lots of potatos in the Kaw bottoms the prisoners were allowed to work in the fields picking spuds. I can remember dad taking me down to talk (look) neither of us spoke German, but some of the Germans spoke English, very well, most were happy to be here and not in battle someplace.

bad_dog 6 years ago

I'd heard Richard Hatch was raised by wolves, but wasn't aware there was a best selling book about it.

Live & learn...

nomorebobsplease 6 years ago

I used to snoop around the old prison camp in East Lawrence, it was close to where I think the City Garage is (slightly north). I had always been told it was a German camp, though. I wish I'd taken pictures of it....

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