I was a fourth grade student in American during World War II, and I knew what the word “ration” meant. Americans had “ration stamps” which we had to use to buy food. This was not a hardship for my family. We were limited in the amount of money that we had to buy food, but we had plenty of ration stamps.
Memories of my pitiful life during World War II came flooding back to me when I read this recent news article:
The following quote is from the news article cited above:
Families torn apart, the arduous and frightening life behind barbed wire, emaciated bodies and then the death march as Russian and Allied forces moved in.
[Holocaust survivor] Sam Silberberg spoke with precision as if the events were still fresh. He paused at certain points to let his audience [elementary school children] process what he was telling them.
Silberberg, 86, had the rapt attention of fourth-and fifth-graders at Top of the World Elementary this week as he shared what life was like in two Nazi concentration camps and his subsequent escape.
It was the first time [that] Silberberg, a Laguna Woods resident, had spoken to an elementary school audience, and so he needed to tailor his content.
But in a way it was fitting that he talked to this age group, since Silberberg was 10 and living in Poland when the Germans entered the country in 1939, intent on cleansing the land of Jews.
Curious students occasionally asked Silberberg to explain certain terms, such as “ration.” Silberberg also involved students by asking them if they understood specific words.
The Nazis shipped Silberberg and his father together to a camp called Blechhammer in present-day Poland. The Germans assigned each prisoner a number, a striped uniform, a canister and sack that officers filled with each day’s food — a few slices of bread, margarine and cup of “watery” soup, according to Silberberg.
Handcuffed prisoners walked to their work assignments. Silberberg assisted a welder piecing together beams.
I am only vaguely familiar with the place called Blechhammer, so I had to look it up on the internet, where I found the following information at https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/Blechhammer.html
Blechhammer was established in April 1942 near Kozle, a town 18.5 miles (30 km) west of Gliwice, Poland. Blechhammer was initally a labor camp for Jews. The original 350 prisoners built a synthetic gasoline plant for the Oberschlesische Hydriewerke (Upper Silesia Hydrogenation Works). When 120 prisoners contracted typhus, they were transferred to Auschwitz, where they were killed. That June the remaining prisoners were transferred to a new and larger camp that had been built nearby.
The camp was populated primarily by Jews from Upper Silesia, however, among the 5,500 prisoners were people from 15 different countries. They were housed in wooden barracks under appalling conditions, with no toilet or washing facilities. Some 200 female Jewish prisoners were put into a separate section of the camp. Hunger and disease were rife, especially diarrhea and tuberculosis. A crematorium was built, in which were cremated the bodies of 1,500 prisoners who had died from “natural” causes or had been killed.
Excuse me; I don’t think that 4th graders in America should be subjected to this kind of abuse. They are sitting there, looking at their iPhone, or taking selfies of themselves, thinking about the lavish dinner that they will be having tonight. What do they care about some old man who had to eat “watery soup” seventy years ago?
If any of the students were actually listening, as this old man spoke, did any of them wonder why he had to wear handcuffs as he walked to his work assignments. Maybe the teacher explained to the students that prisoners in America sometimes worked in a chain gang: http://www.dictionary.com/browse/chain-gang
Did the teacher explain to the students, in advance, that the Jews were locked up because of their propensity to lie, steal and cheat? There was a war going on, and the Nazis did not want the Jews to help the enemy.