LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL
By Jessie Schoenberg
In The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank wrote at age thirteen;
“It’s difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.”
Like Anne Frank, my Bubbie, Anna Schoenberg, hid from German occupation as a young child during the Holocaust. And just like Anne Frank, my Bubbie chose to believe in the best of people and to have hope despite living through the most unthinkable of experiences.
My Bubbie’s legacy is hope, kindness, and remembrance; that future generations of Jewish children continue to learn lessons from the Holocaust and pay forward the knowledge and wisdom of all survivors.
It would be understandable if survivors like my Bubbie felt anger and resentment at the injustice of the persecution of Jews during the Holocaust. But my Bubbie is one of the most joyful, optimistic and compassionate people I know. She turned her pain into lessons and loves sharing these lessons with others.
If you were meeting my Bubbie for the first time, it would not be long before she would show you a picture that was taken of herself at the beginning of the war, a yellow star over her school uniform that was enforced upon all Jews in Europe at that time. What my Bubbie is trying to impart, I believe, is that the Holocaust is not something that should merely be read about in books. Real people lived through the Holocaust, and that while it is still possible these experiences should be shared by those who survived it.
My Bubbie understands the reality that survivors are also getting older: one day there will no longer be people alive who will be able to share their experience from the Holocaust first-hand. Future generations will be responsible for passing on their stories and creating a future where the evil of the Holocaust is never repeated.
My Bubbie, being among the few in her family to survive the Holocaust decided to leave France to start her life after the war. Like many survivors, she emigrated to the United States where she met my Zaidie, David Schoenberg z”l who emigrated from Poland and was a survivor of Nazi labour camps. They later moved to Hamilton where they raised my Aunt and Father as part of the growing Jewish community.
Without hope, my Bubbie would not have been able to leave her country behind to start a new life in a new country whose language she did not speak. If not for her perseverance in achieving a better life, I would not be here today.
Now, my Bubbie delivers hope for her children and grandchildren: hope that we will have opportunities that she herself was not afforded. When we speak on the phone, her last words before we finish our conversations are always the same: “I wish for you what I wish for myself: health, happiness, and success.”
My Bubbie is grateful to have survived the Holocaust; and in return she has spent her life improving the lives of others through acts of kindness.
Bubbie has always been an active member of the Jewish community since she moved to Hamilton. Whether it was sharing her story at Hebrew day schools or Yom HaShoah events, or teaching French to people both young and old, Bubbie did everything with a kind heart.
When my Bubbie wrote down her Holocaust story many years ago so that it could be added to the archives of Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial museum in Israel, she recounted every detail of the “horrible nightmare” as she remembered it. Despite being a young child, many memories from this time are etched into her mind. At the end of her story, she thanks God for living, to tell her story, and also that despite what happened, to her “Life is Beautiful”.
Bubbie has always chosen to see beauty and to radiate kindness to others around her.
Drawing on Anne Frank’s words once more, I cannot help but think about my Bubbie’s strength and courage to get to where she is today;
“Let me be myself and then I am satisfied. I know that I’m a woman, a woman with inward strength and plenty of courage.”
My Bubbie’s inward strength, courage, as well as her dedication to instilling hope, kindness and remembrance in others is her legacy, by which I am forever inspired.