Adrian Evans ‘15 / The Dickinsonian
Holocaust survivor, Hilda Mantelmacher, spoke to students and audience members after her lecture.
In honor of Yom Hashoah, or Holocaust remembrance, Hilda Mantelmacher came to Dickinson College on April 18 in Denny 317 to speak about her experiences as a survivor of both the Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps. A native of Czechoslovakia, Mantelmacher lost her father, mother, younger brother, grandparents, aunts and uncles as a result of the atrocities committed by the Nazis in concentration camps. “I never felt I was less because I was Jewish,” stated Mantelmacher, speaking of her experiences as a little girl at the time. She did not understand why her friends no longer spoke to her except to call her “a dirty Jew” after all the Jews were forced to sew yellow Stars of David on their clothing. When they were relocated to the ghetto along with other Jewish families, Mantelmacher noted, “We could only take what we could carry.” Her mother was even forced to give away her wedding ring to a Nazi. On the way to the camps, shoved in cramped cattle cars, many people “killed themselves, or went insane from hunger and thirst.” At the camp, said Mantelmacher during her lecture, prisoners were divided into two lines: the left line was sent to the gas chambers immediately, while the right line was sent to work. Families were torn apart, inmates were made to sleep naked, their heads were shaved, and they were given numbers to replace their identities. In Bergen-Belsen, prisoners earned food and water by carrying the dead bodies to large pits and crematoriums. The hunger, thirst and disease that plagued the prisoners were so great, however, that most prisoners did not have the strength for this job. When they did not have the strength, they were killed. Despite the horrific experiences which Mantelmacher lived through, she explained, “Having no grave to visit for my parents,” is the hardest for her. Mantelmacher continued, saying, “I know they are in heaven because they had hell on Earth.”
Though it was a challenge for Mantelmacher to recollect her tragic memories, she said, “I know that God wanted me alive so that I could be a voice for the millions of voices which were silenced.” Meg Murphy ’15 described listening to Mantelmacher, “[It was] A life changing experience. The way she interacted with the people in the audience was very loving, and her experiences were amazing to hear about.” As to the importance of keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive, Danielle Collette ’15 stated, “The Holocaust is no less important just because there aren’t as many eye-witnesses anymore.”
When asked how the current generation can prevent other Holocausts, Mantelmacher replied, “Love each other. Accept everybody. Look after each other. But, most of all, do not hate – hate is what brings a Holocaust.”