Watch this presentation: We say people must remember the Holocaust in the future, but we’re ignoring its victims today.
Frances Irwin is 90 years old. She was born in Poland and lives in Brooklyn. She is a Holocaust survivor.
Frances is lonely, even though her son takes care of her. She collects used aluminum foil in a kitchen piled high with paper plates. She relies on an emergency wristband to call for help. When you ask her to, she is able to vividly recall the worst of her World War II experience. She displays a mix of shame and trepidation when deciding whether to roll up her sleeve and show the world her forearm, tattooed at Auschwitz.
The truth is that Frances, like all Holocaust survivors, is old. Like many survivors, she’s dependent on Jewish and social welfare. She’s not living as well as she deserves to live. One day, not long from now, Frances and the others like her will die. Then there will be no more Holocaust survivors left.
Holocaust survivors are growing older and frailer. The twenty-year-old who survived Auschwitz is now eighty-eight. She may be coping with the loss of her spouse and have no family to speak of. In addition to the myriad problems associated with so-called “normal aging,” many survivors have numerous physical and psychological problems directly attributable to their experiences during the Holocaust. Prolonged periods of starvation, exposure to severe weather conditions with inadequate clothing, and experiencing and witnessing unspeakable atrocities take a severe toll on body and mind. And many of these problems only surface in old age, having been hidden during their working years when the survivors struggled and made a new life for themselves as productive citizens of this country.
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