How the Remaining Holocaust Survivors Keep Their Stories Alive

The number of Holocaust survivors seems to be declining every day. There is a real fear that when the last of these courageous people make their way out of this life, a forgetfulness of the horrors they experienced will take place.

That’s why survivors like Erna de Vries are working hard to keep telling their stories of survival to anyone who will listen.

She says that the white bark of a birch tree helps her to recall her time at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Over 1 million people were murdered there during the Holocaust. Even a piece of bread reminds her of the hunger she experienced.

What makes de Vries’ story so unique is that she volunteered to go to the concentration camp. Her mother was Jewish and sent there in 1943, so she elected to join her to avoid being left alone. 

You Must Continue to Tell Everyone What They Did

Erna de Vries tells her story in schools. She speaks to reporters whenever she can. The last words she can remember her mother telling her still ring in her ears.

“You must fight. You must survive. Tell everyone what they did to us.”

Age is catching up with the last remaining Holocaust survivors. Many of them don’t see or hear too well, making it a challenge to get their stories into the 24-hour cycles of news coverage. 


That’s why several organizations in Germany and around the world are making the effort today to document all of these stories before they are gone. It is a way to go beyond the numbers and dates of the Holocaust to show how real people suffered because of these actions.

After speaking with local schoolchildren, de Vries reveals a letter that she received. It describes her as a “great and courageous” woman.


“I cannot say it enough. I have so much respect for you.”

It brings de Vries back to that moment with her mother. She knew then that her family wouldn’t come together again because of Auschwitz. Now she fights to keep her life story relevant so that the world doesn’t repeat it.


Technology is making this process even easier today. If you visit the Museum of Jewish Heritage, you can interact with a virtual Holocaust survivor. You can ask questions, listen to him sing, and even share the occasional joke.
We cannot let the world return to the days of the 1940s when the Holocaust happened. Keeping the stories of survivors alive is the best way to accomplish that goal.