“You have to know who your people are or you won’t know who you can be” Frieda Jaffe told a rapt audience on the Boca Raton Campus. Jaffe was one of the few people, under the age of ten, who survived the Holocaust.
“I represent the last living generation of those who went mad” Jaffe told the audience that was near tears as she spoke. “I need you to help me,” she continued, “When I am gone, there will be no others who survived.”
When Frieda Jaffe was four and a half years old, SS soldiers shattered the front door, and dragged her father out of her home. At seven years of age, she was released from Bergen-Belsen, a Concentration Camp in Germany which was liberated by the United Kingdom.
Although Jaffe’s childhood was taken from her, the resolve that kept her alive is still strong within her today. She spoke to students about what she lived through, and what she still hopes for.
Of her time in the ghetto in Piotrkow, Poland, and later Ravensbruck, and Bergen-Belsen, two concentration camps in Germany, she said “Things that I do remember are the horrors…there are no such things as happy times.”
Jaffe also reminded the audience “The Holocaust was genocide at its most evil. Two-thirds of the Jewish population in Europe was murdered. Evil I know well,” she continued, “You have to know about it, you have to prepare yourself,” Jaffe told the students. She cautioned that there is still evil today as there have been many genocides since the Holocaust, in Rawanda, Somilia, Bosnia, Darfur and Egypt.
Natalie Widawski, a student at Palm Beach State College, was moved to tears by Jaffe’s presentation. “Listening to her really put into perspective that people today should be aware and never forget history. Widawski, who’s family was also in the Holocaust commented “I never had the opportunity to meet them because they were murdered in the Holocaust, but hearing her touches me because it gives me a sense of what they went through. It gives me closure to know that people went on and grew from this genocide.”
But the strongest message Jaffe gave to the students was one of resilience. The first time Friedzia, Jaffe’s childhood name, was allowed to attend school was at age nine. Not only did she not know how to read or write, but she had to learn a French, as she was taken to Belgium once she was released.
At the age of thirteen, she moved to Texas to live with her distant relatives, and once again had to learn a new language. These obstacles could have been used as excuses not to succeed in school, but instead motivated her. “Stumbling blocks, people, money, so many things come our way. Nobody will ever tell you life will be easy” Jaffe said. The secret of her success, resilience and determination. “I will admit defeat, but not until every other avenue has been exhausted.”