The Importance of Remembrance
Sidwell Friends grandparent and Holocaust survivor Marion Ein Lewin recounts her journey of survival.
On April 6, to mark the start of Passover and the approaching commemoration of Yom HaShoah, Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day later in the month, the Middle School’s 7th and 8th graders held a special Meeting for Worship with Holocaust survivor and Sidwell Friends grandparent Marion Ein Lewin GP’27,’28,’33.
In 1938, at age 4, before she was even old enough to go to school, Lewin (née Hess) and her twin brother, Steven Hess, were ripped from their home in Amsterdam, along with their parents, and shipped to Bergen-Belsen with thousands of other Jews. Today, the Hess twins are the last and only surviving twins of the Holocaust. “Why did I survive?” Lewin asked, noting that so many wonderful and deserving people did not. “How do you describe a miracle? In the end you can’t. It is impossible.”
Lewin recalled how she and her brother developed survival techniques, like making up games with head lice or holding food in their mouths as long as possible before swallowing to fend of hunger. But mostly, Lewin credits their tenacity to the fortitude of their parents, who were with them every step of the way: “There is not a day I do not think about our survival and the strength and grace of our parents.”
Lewin also described her journey to America, what it was like for her whole family to see the Statue of Liberty for the first time, and even what it meant several years later to get their first family car (a Pontiac) in this new country that embraced freedom over tyranny. Still, Lewin was quick to point out that far too many Americans are forgetting the lessons of the Holocaust, noting that 60 percent of young people between the ages of 15 and 32 do not even know what Auschwitz is. “Never be indifferent,” she extolled the Middle Schoolers.
Even as a child survivor, however, Lewin was insistent that her experience not define her. “I don’t only want to be known as a Holocaust survivor,” she recalls telling her mother. “I want to be known as an American girl.”
This September, look for a new book about the Hess twins: Inseparable: The Hess Twins’ Holocaust Journey through Bergen-Belsen to America.
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