the Holocaust Remembrance Project winner’s trip in 2001 created some of
the most indelible memories of my entire life—not for the recognition
that my essay received that year, but more importantly, for the precious
days I got to spend with Holocaust survivors as they led me through the
searing pain of their childhoods so brutally mutilated by the Nazi
I will never forget walking through the Holocaust Museum, holding my breath, watching Irene Zisblatt and Inge Auerbacher point to the emaciated faces of their relatives and friends pictured on the walls, people who are present today only in photographs and memories of those who vow “never to forget”. I watched, breathless and trembling, as both women recalled intimate details of every single person they recognized in those images.
I cried with every identification they made,
hoping for just one more survivor among them, yearning to hear of at
least one life not claimed by the senseless hatred aimed at them from
their fellow men. Not one of the dozens of people they pointed out lived
to liberation. At the end of that afternoon, I was left with two burning
emotions: an awesome sense of appreciation for the survivors’
willingness to share their lives so personally with us, and a passion to
commit my life to preventing such atrocities from happening again.