The touching testimony of Shirley Gottesman’s experiences in the Holocaust were unfathomnable for me. Shirley came from humble beginnings- her mother was a seamstress and her father was a farmer. But during World War Two, Hungary was taken over and she found herself being transported to the Auschwitz camp. Inside the camp, she saw the crematorium, lost her ailing grandmother,lost her mother (and found the only item left of her in the camp- her shoe), endured physical abuse, and had to smell the burning flesh of fellow victims of the Nazis’s murderous brutality.
In addition, she had to scramble for scraps of food and she witnessed a failed yet brave uprising. Unfortunately, 250 Jews were killed in the uprising and the organizers of the uprising were executed. Fortunately, Shirley lived to see liberation which brought tears of joy. After the war was over, she reunited with her childhood friend and they moved to New York where they had two children. Today, in addition to her children, Shirley has twelve grandchildren , she has written an autobiography, and speaks to students about her experiences in the Holocaust. Her testimony to me means the ultimate test of survival and resilience. Here was a young woman who managed to survive a racist, anti-semetic, and patriarchal regime and made a life for herself even after losing so much. Moreover, she never forgot her roots and heritage. She chose to remember a horrific, traumatic event that others would have chosen to bury deep within their minds, so she could educate future generations on the Holocaust.
Written and researched by Enyonam Agbemadzo