When one thinks about the Holocaust, very often it is about the horrors of the camps. Most people are unaware that many of us survived without ever seeing any of the camps. Mine is one of these stories.

I was born on November 13, 1939, at the Jewish Hospital in Berlin, Germany. My parents were employees of the hospital and would later, after the war, continue to work there.

It soon became clear that we were not safe, and my grandmother and I, along with about 800 Jewish people, moved into the vast cellars beneath the hospital buildings.

Many of us survived without ever seeing any of the campsWhile we were moving into the cellars of the hospital, the Nazis were kicking the patients out as they themselves moved into the hospital buildings. This was to be a lifesaver for my parents and, indirectly, for us. My parents were arrested and began to serve the Nazis’ needs, such as cooking, cleaning, etc.

Because my parents were performing slave labor, they sometimes were able to smuggle food down to us, for we had nothing.

The Nazis also had some prisoners of war housed on the grounds. They were allowed visits from the Red Cross, and often received food that way. I remember sneaking out at night to see a particular French prisoner who would share what little he had. He would teach me French children’s songs, and these visits became a bright spot in my very young life.

Amazingly, there were many bright spots. The adults would tell me stories and we would sing songs. There was much humor and kidding around. I didn’t know or understand it then, but today I realize it was all done to keep our courage up, as a positive outlook would help us survive.

We practiced Judaism to the best of our ability. We observed Shabbat and the holidays with prayer and song.

For me, because of my youth, living in a cellar seemed normal. I could, after all, not remember anything else. I didn’t realize that I was severely underweight and abnormally pale, and had some physical problems that couldn’t be addressed.

Then, quite suddenly, my world changed. The war had ended and we were free. For me freedom was quite a shock. Nothing seemed real and I couldn’t understand what had happened. I was frightened by it all.

This brings us to a part that is seldom talked about: the aftermath.

I was send to Switzerland for a three-month recuperation period. It was there that I first was introduced to Shabbat celebrated in a synagogue, sunny outings in beautiful parks, and more.

For me freedom was quite a shock. Nothing seemed real and I couldn’t understand what had happened. I was frightened by it allWhen I returned to Berlin, I was enrolled in school, and soon learned that I was different from the rest of the students. People today believe that the hatred ended with the end of the war, but I soon learned differently. In school, I was called names and beaten up many times, simply because I was Jewish. Today I know that these kids had been taught to hate and didn’t know any better. They too were afraid of the changes in their life.

In the meantime, life in Berlin seemed to take on a normal tone. People tried hard to put the past behind them. In 1954 my mother and I immigrated to the USA. This upset me greatly, as I was an ardent Zionist and longed to go to Israel.

Once in America we stopped all Jewish activity. In later years I tried to go to various synagogues, but never felt comfortable, never felt accepted, and quickly stopped going. I did join several Jewish organizations, but they were social, not religious.

Today, I am trying to find my way back to G‑d. I have always believed that without living the Jewish life I will never be totally happy. Chabad and especially the Jewish Woman have been a wonderful beginning for me

My life has taken on a normal tone. I have tried hard to put the past behind me, yet I will always carry the scars of my experiences, both physical and emotional.