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Never Forgot

Survivors of the Holocaust on the rise of an American authoritarian.

 Survivors file into Herbst Theater for a presentation sponsored by the Jewish Family and Childrens Services Holocaust Center. 


Editor’s note: Read more post-election reactions here.

Seventy-eight years to the day after Kristallnacht and two days after Donald Trump became our president-elect, 80 Holocaust survivors walked stiffly off two charter buses and entered San Francisco’s Herbst Theatre (above). Along with hundreds of schoolchildren, they had come to see a presentation of the play The Children of Willesden Lane. The story of a young Jew escaping the cauldron of the European continent was a familiar one for the survivors. And, hauntingly, equally familiar was the sight of a race-baiting demagogue winning a national election. They spoke to Joe Eskenazi about the traumatic collision of the old- and new-world orders. 

Ralph Samuel, 85
As a refugee yourself, how do you feel about Trump pledging to turn back Syrian refugees? That horrifies me. I have very mixed feelings about Franklin Roosevelt, even. He no doubt saved us by leading the United States into war. But he could have saved so many more Jews. What should young people do now? What should minorities do? [Long pause] 
I don’t know. I am glad I am old. 

Sonia Korn-Grimani, 85

When I hear Trump, he reminds me of Hitler. But [the Final Solution] is far-fetched in America. He doesn’t have the gestapo—yet. Yesterday I saw an interview of a farmer from the middle of America. And he said, “At last we’ll have someone paying attention to us.” I have great doubts that Trump will help this farmer or the poorer people. 

Rosa Freund, 90
We need to be wary of this man. We need to watch out. I am a survivor of Auschwitz. I am the only one from my family who survived. Rounded up—I was rounded up. Are you afraid of what the future holds? I don’t know. Look, I am 90. I am planning to get up tomorrow!

Lucie Elenberg, 93 
These last three days, I could not have been sicker. If I was young, I would leave here and go to South America. The Muslims, the Latinos, I feel so bad for them. The Latinos, they do all the work in this country. I respect them.

Paul Sipos, no age given
I like our president-elect. This is America. Everything will be fine. 

Marie Donner, 86
You tell me who your friends are, and I’ll tell you who you are. He’s with Putin. He’s backed by the Ku Klux Klan and nazi supporters. He’s a total narcissist who’ll do whatever he can do, just to do it. [Sighs] Bad enough we’ll have to look at him for four more years.


Originally published in the December issue of
San Francisco

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