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Retelling the horror of the Holocaust

Posted: September 26, 2008 3:55 p.m.
Updated: November 28, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Margot Webb, a Holocaust survivor, speaks about her experiences as a little girl living in Germany during the Holocaust. Webb tells the story of how her grandparents bought a horse named Miriam as a gift to cheer her up when she had to leave all her friends back home. One night an SS soldier asked her to show him the horse and tell him about ...

Margot Webb stood behind the podium and recalled a time when fear was her only companion.

"Fear was constantly with me," she told the crowd of about 70 congregants at Temple Beth Ami on Thursday. "And I don't like to admit it, but it still is."

Speaking softly, the petite, dark-haired woman told the story of her escape from Germany during the Holocaust when she was 10 years old.

Webb was joined by Elane Geller, one of the youngest survivors of the Holocaust, who detailed her ordeal and the lessons today's youth can take from the Holocaust.

Through her narration, Webb took the couples and families seated at the Newhall temple back to a time when she was growing up on the eve of the Holocaust, which soon killed 6 million Jews.

Changes in Germany
As much as Webb enjoyed growing up in a small town in Germany, she felt a change.

"Around the time I was almost 10, a chill came into my life," she said.

Her parents began acting differently, especially when Webb's grandmother died.

"No one told me the truth," she said.

School was no different.

"Children began to turn away from me in school," she said, adding that her classmates began tormenting her with insults like "dirty Jew."

Nazis extracted Webb's beloved childhood nanny out of her life under Hitler's regime.

Addressing the crowd, she detailed the moment her parents shared the depressing news about Webb's mentor.

"She had to leave because Jews are no longer allowed to have a nanny," she recalled her parents saying.

With Hitler's plan of eliminating the Jews in effect, Webb and her parents moved in with her grandparents in another part of Germany.

The move came during a night that was filled with lightning and rain.

"Even the storm felt like a prophecy of things to come," she said.

Forty five years later, Webb's family discovered her grandparents went to Amsterdam and soon after, were sent to concentration camps, where they were gassed together on March 23, 1943.

"I have never stopped mourning them," Webb said.

Webb also learned that her grandparents had donated their visas to America to Webb and her mother "while they went to their certain death," Webb said.

Shadows at noon
Through Webb's narrative, which she detailed in a book "Shadows at Noon," the audience responded with gasps and quiet comments to themselves and their loved ones.

Others just sighed and shook their heads.

As World War II ravaged Europe, Webb learned more about the history that played out in her life and the millions around her.

Even as Webb continued to learn about the secret police and Nazi soldiers, the thought of Jews being exterminated remained unbelievable.

"This was not the Hitler I've been told about in school," Webb said, recalling her childhood days.

With the war escalating, Webb's parents decided that they needed to leave Germany and take refuge in America, a place Webb imagined as a land of movie stars.

The father would be first, she said, followed by Webb and her mother.

But getting out would not be easy.

Numerous times, Webb and her family members were harassed by Nazi soldiers.

At one point, her grandfather and uncle were taken to concentration camps. When they returned, Webb was unable to recognize her family members because of the welts on their back and flat stomachs.

Webb was able to escape Germany in March 1938 by taking a boat with her mother. It was a time Webb referred to as the end of her childhood.

A child in a concentration camp
Geller's struggle to survive in the concentration camps from the ages of four to eight proved difficult as well.

As a young child, Geller's aunt protected her as her mother and other family members were killed in the concentration camps.

During her stay, Geller said she and others in the concentration camp, where 13-year-old Anne Frank and her sister were imprisoned, survived on 400 calories a day.

The experience led Geller to suffer many discomforts, ranging from typhoid to lice.

"I did whatever was necessary to fill my belly and stay alive," she said.

She was rescued in 1944 by British soldiers.

Before telling her story, Geller, who frequently speaks at schools across the nation, explained that each person is a human being first. And as she shares her ordeal with children, teens and college students, she hopes to send a message of prevention through her story.


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