Emma (Year 9) was the winner of a recent writing competition. The competition was open to all Year 9 and 10 students across Victoria. Her essay, titled The Response, responded to the question ‘Why it is important to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive and how we can do this?’ As part of the prize, Emma will choose from three well-known Melbourne writers to work closely with in a mentoring program. And, as well as this incredible opportunity, she has also received a scholarship to attend the March of the Living in Poland later next year.The March of the Living is an annual educational program, which brings students from all over the world to Poland, in order to study the history of the Holocaust and to examine the roots of prejudice, intolerance and hate. Since the first March of the Living was held in 1988, over 150,000 youth from around the world have marched down the same path leading from Auschwitz to Birkenau on Holocaust Remembrance Day.This is an amazing achievement and wonderful opportunity. Well done Emma from all of us at DECV!

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The Response. 

This is death: misery, pain, depression, anger, frustration and hatred of every one and thing in this world. But most importantly, death is the end. Death is the end of you and your story. You could have been the nicest, sweetest, kindest, most caring person on you street, but once you have died and everyone else has either moved or passed on themselves, you are nothing more than a person who lived on this street.

Well that’s what I am. That’s what we are, the survivors of the holocaust. We are nothing more than an old owner of a home, who used to live there. Except one weird thing, I’m not dead and I still live on the same street. I am alive, but somehow I am dead to so many people. I have both feet on the ground, but to some people I may as well be on the moon. Once I die, my story will die with me, unless someone will be there to share it with others for generations to come. But will anyone? How do I know that I’m not just going to die and everything that I ever was and the horrors I experienced won’t just die alongside me?

The Titanic sunk 102 years ago. There is proof that it happened, and until just a couple years ago there were people who survived the titanic and shared their stories with the world. There are no titanic deniers. The holocaust was only 75 years ago, there are still survivors that are alive who are living proof of what we endure, and yet I am still a question. How am I a question?

149 years ago, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. There is proof that he was killed and there are no deniers. Yet I am still a question. One man died and he will never be a question, he will be history. Yet somehow, 6 million Jewish people died and there are those who deny this, therefore denying our very experience. How am I a question?

How is it possible that I am a question whilst these others facts are history? Who gets to decide that I survived for nothing? Who gets to decide that I am worthless and invisible to everyone around me? Who gets to decide that my story will never make it past my death?

There are 7 billion people on this planet. There are only 13 million Jewish people. That means that only 0.2% of the planet will ever care enough to make sure my story stays alive, and after some time, probably some wars and some bratty kids, I don’t think that the holocaust survivor’s stories will survive much longer.

So how do I know that at least for the next little while, I can preserve my story? How can I make sure that at least the next few generations will remember me, even after I am no longer here to waste their Sundays haunting them with my World War 2 stories? Simple. For years I have refused to tell my story, not wanting to tear open old wounds or horrify my family. With each passing year my secret has been more deeply hidden from view yet now I know that although it may be hard, I must give voice to my history if I really want to make sure that I am not forgotten.

This is what I and all the other survivors must do. If I can tell 10 people in this lifetime about my story, and they go ahead and tell another 10 people my story and they tell another 10 people, then I have at least made a dent in this world. My story could turn out to be a game of broken telephone, where the end product is not exactly remembered and recounted exactly as I spoke it, but at least it would contain the essence of the horrors we experienced. I would be ok with that. Who knows, if every survivor shares their stories with 10 people, we might finally be able to become a living memory that endures beyond our death. We may never be able to win over those who chose to deny our existence for their own political or religious agendas, but we may be able to influence those who simply don’t know anything about the holocaust because it has not touched them. The more people who hear and believe our stories will surely mean that we turn the tide against the deniers. For every denier we have to create a thousand believers who can shout out the truth. That is my goal, to make sure that we are no longer a question or some bizarre fictional character, but are rather a reminder of a brief but ugly part of history that should not ever happen again.

My story might not live. My story might die alongside me, but I would much rather know that I had at least tried to make a difference in this world and tried to keep our stories alive, than to die having done nothing to share my tale.

10 people. Just 10 people.

-By Emma


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