Teachings of a Holocaust survivor


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Annie Glass really does not need to read a book about the Holocaust, she lived it. Now a long-time San Francisco resident, Glass was a teenager when the Germans occupied her small Polish town.

"Life changed for everybody," says Glass. "It was just unbelievable what happened."

Her brother was shot to death, her parents lost forever. She and her two sisters ended up at Auschwitz, the notorious Nazi death camp.

"We had to undress, cut the hair off and my sister was still crying and we have the numbers, you see," says Glass when describing the numbers branded on her arm. "We were not human... I cannot explain to you how I survived."

But she is trying to explain the experience to Ida Cuttler. Cuttler is a 17-year-old San Francisco teenager who is part of what is called the Next Chapter Project. It is a partnership of the San Francisco-based Taube Foundation for Jewish Life and Culture and the Jewish Family and Children's Services of the Bay Area. Cuttler is recording the haunting memories of Glass.

"The last Holocaust survivor is going to die in my generation, so I thought it was really important that these stories get told firsthand," says Cuttler.

For an even deeper understanding, Cuttler and Glass will go back to Poland, back to Auschwitz, with a group of high school and college students.

"I think it's going to be very moving; I think it will be very hard at times," says Cuttler.

Glass says the past is the past.

"I say Hitler is buried, I'm alive," she says. "This is my whole actually feeling of it."

That is what she said before the journey back, and once there her feelings did not change, even though at times walking on the killing ground was emotionally draining.

"We lit the candles there in memory of our parents, of our relatives, and small children," says Glass.

They attended a music festival in Krakow enjoyed by Jews and non-Jews alike. Glass brought back memorabilia and memories to share with her husband Charles, who is also a Holocaust survivor. Glass says there is a new feel and new look to her native land that gives her optimism.

"It's time to see a reality that the world is different, the world is better now, especially Poland," she says.

Cuttler says the biggest impression was simply being with Glass and seeing the things she had talked about. The teenager expected sadness but found there was also another side.

"There was this hopefulness to being there that I didn't expect to feel of, well, if someone like her can experience such a place and come out with so much kindness then the human soul must tend to go towards compassion," says Cuttler.

Cuttler and the other students are now writing books which will go to museums and research centers all over the world. If you would like a preview of their work, visit parentsplaceonline.org.

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