Not very long before my father passed away I learned a truth about his history that shook me to my very core. While I had always known our family’s history was tragically shaped by the Holocaust I had no idea that after my grandmother somehow managed to give birth to him in a work camp, my father was hidden in an orphanage until the Holocaust finally came to an end. And by some miraculous stroke of luck, and I’d like to think divine intervention, my grandparents survived the war and were then able to retrieve my father from the orphanage that had been his home for the early years of his life.
This is just one of so many experiences and memories that my father held deep and when I would try and pry, hard as I could- it was impossible to get any information from him. He grew up a product of two irrevocably broken people– as so many children of Holocaust survivors- who perhaps believed the only way to continue living was to do everything in their power to bury the past and not make it a part of the fabric of their family’s language and legacy.
I cannot for even a millisecond begin to comprehend what my grandparents and for that matter my father z”l endured. I know as a parent myself- the lives of my children are the most precious pieces of my heart- and I could not fathom having to give them up to anyone under any circumstance, and in doing so- not know if I would ever get to hold them again.
And so I’ve been hungry, my entire life- as a Jewish woman, as a mother and simply as a human being- for the oral history of Holocaust survivors perhaps as a window into what my own family endured and of course to be reminded that these kinds of atrocities can NEVER ever be permitted to take place on this planet again. This is why I am incredibly grateful for the work of Elise McIntosh-Levy, an editor, writer and founder of MarkMyMemories.com, which offers memoir-writing and coaching services, who has just completed a riveting book with one of the diminishing few Jewish Holocaust refugees still living, Lucie Burian Liebman titled Unconquered: A Tale of a Girl’s Survival During the Holocaust” (Merrimack Media).
Lucie Burian Liebman may not fit the conventional definition of “Holocaust survivor.” Yet, simply because she never was interned in a concentration camp does not mean she wasn’t tortured, physically and emotionally. Now, after more than 70 years of being haunted by the memories of having her childhood snatched away, Lucie shares her story to illustrate the adversities she, a Jewish Holocaust refugee, endured as well.
Told from the eyes of Lucie as a child, “Unconquered” traces her three-year journey from when Nazis took over her home in Vienna to her arrival at Ellis Island and assimilation in New York. Tested again and again, Lucie watched as her grandfather died after being brutally beaten and her cousins shot before her very eyes. But, it was a traumatic incident with two Nazi soldiers that has left the deepest scar.
More than a “Holocaust story,” “Unconquered” demonstrates the resiliency of the human spirit and the fire of a girl who refuses to let anyone crush her soul.
According to Ms. Levy, “True beauty isn’t skin-deep. It penetrates much further, deep into a person’s soul – a truth I was reminded of recently while working with a Jewish woman who witnessed firsthand the atrocities of the Holocaust. In writing her story, Lucie has stated that she is a victim no more, that her memories are like dust and no longer having a hold over her. That, I say, is a mark of true beauty.”
This is just one of so many stories and legacies we need to tell over and over again. And as Yom Hashoah draws close we need to repeat the words, “Never Again”.