By Caleigh Patterson, SMA Prep Cadet
On Thursday, October 17, SMA-Major Pelletier’s class welcomed a very esteemed guest, one who endured many trials, suffered and lost many who were dear to her heart, with a soul of bright sunshine, providing warmth and wisdom. Her name is Rifka Glatz, an 81-year old Holocaust survivor, soon turning 82. Her story is one of many turns, of heartbreak and adversity, sorrow and pain, and most importantly, of love, joy, and kindness. Greeting us with the Hebrew phrase “Shalom,” she shared her story with us.
She was born in Hungary in 1937, October 26, to a Jewish family. When World War II broke out, many Hungarian Jews believed that the rumors of the faraway concentration camps and the “Final Solution” could not be true, and many were reluctant to leave. When Germany entered Hungary in 1943, the oppression of Jews began. Those who were once countrymen and women, comrades in arms, neighbors, and friends, were now prosecuted. Her parents, running a bakery at the time, were forced to give up their establishment along with the other Jewish shopkeepers and tradesmen. She was only six at the time, only completing kindergarten, with no chance of entering first grade when the Jewish children were prohibited from entering schools. Jewish day-schools were set up, and she attended them. Her father was placed in a forced labor camp, starved and worked to death, his family was anxious about his whereabouts. (They were later informed about his death from his brother-in-law.)
They came for them in the middle of summer, her mother telling her older brother to prepare a knapsack and clothe her in many layers to have the clothes, in case she didn't come back. That day, her mother was caught begging to get back to her children and was allowed to return. The Germans took their house and all of their possessions in the house and boarded the door shut. They were loaded into trucks. She was with her brother and mother when she was taken to the brickyard factory and stayed there for a few months. They slept on dirt, with minimal food and water. Rezso Kaszcher, a Hungarian Jew, a lawyer, and a hero formed a committee and decided to deal with Nazi Adolf Eichmann, the man who ordered the extermination of Jews in Hungary. They offered jewelry in order to save a group. The group of 1,800 randomly selected Jews, Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, etc.were put on hold until further notice. They were going to go to Spain or Portugal, but they instead went to Bergen-Belsen, it was terrible but not an annihilation camp. She was six and a half at that time and was separated from her brother, but was able to stay with her mother. Rifka turned seven in the camp.
When they were liberated they were taken to Switzerland and stayed at a grand hotel for ten months to recuperate from the conditions they lived in (1943). After some time she went to Palestine, Israel and stayed in a kibbutz, a communal settlement. She only got to see her mother twice a year; however, her ‘foster’ family was very nice. The years on the kibbutz taught her how to love, and taught her lessons that the whole world needs to utilize every day; if you see an injustice in the world, do something. If you can’t, notify someone who can. The real crime of the Germans who didn't believe in the “Final Solution” was that they were bystanders and did nothing, as the real opposite of love is not hate, but indifference. Don’t ignore the hatred and evil in the world, as if left ignored, can blossom into something truly terrible and unviewable, so go forth in love and kindness. Shalom.
Rifka is married with two adopted children Her brother has a huge family now and they are very close and loving towards each other. Rifka has 3 grandchildren. She has the contents of her Mezuzah from their former house in Hungary, hidden in her mother's coat.