A woman who survived Nazi brutality as a young girl tells her life story ahead of Holocaust Remembrance Day this weekend.
Dorothy Kraushar Finger was 11 years old when the Nazis moved into her town in Poland. During the Holocaust, she lost nearly 90 members of her extended family.
On Thursday, she spoke to members of the Wilmington Rotary Club about her experience and told them that now they too were witnesses to the Holocaust, because they heard from someone who went through it first hand. “I am a Holocaust survivor. Now you have heard me, you are Holocaust survivors. And it’s up to you, when someone wants to poison your mind, to tell them that you’ve heard a person who lived through it.” She says it’s important to remember and study what happened in the Holocaust, “It’s for the generation of humanity to learn how not to behave.”
After her parents were murdered by the Nazis, she spent time in a labor camp. She says that’s where the Nazis would kill not with gas or bullets, but rather through brutally hard labor and hunger. She recalled being beaten by whips for the soldier’s enjoyment and wondering how people could be so cruel to others, “How can you enjoy hurting people who you don’t even know, but that unfortunately happened.”
She escaped the labor camp by crawling under a fence and spent the next year hiding out in the woods. She described feeling overwhelmed at the death and pain around her and says some of that emotional pain remains. “To this day I cannot believe [what happened]. Had I not written on scraps of paper after the war the things I’m telling you now, I would not believe that any human being could survive these types of conditions and still live half-normally.”
She says before her mother was killed, she gave her a message that has influenced the rest of her life. “She said to me, ‘My dear child, you’re young and strong, hopefully healthy, and if you survive, you must remember to tell the world how those barbarians treated us Jews.'”
She says as she turns 80 years old this year it is not easy, but she must fulfill her mother’s wishes. “I’m going to speak as long as I can. It’s not easy. I pay a price, but it is my duty to tell people about the inhumanity. And it is my duty especially to teach young children.” She says she’s told her story to children at hundreds of schools. She says being able to influence children away from hate and bigotry is her reward.
After being liberated by the Russians in 1944, Finger went to live with an aunt and uncle in Wilmington. She graduated from Wilmington High School and Wilmington School of Nursing. She is the widow of prominent Wilmington attorney Louis J. Finger. Together, they had three children and two grandchildren.
This Sunday, April 11 marks Yom Hashoah or Holocaust Remembrance Day.