Holocaust Story Remains Relevant in Today's World
Byline: Amy Callahan
Gruesome tales of those killed because of their heritage horrify us and make us pledge we will not tolerate genocide again.
For two years, young Aaron Elster hid in a cold, dark attic waiting for the Nazis to find him.
The 10-year-old boy spoke not a word, except when rain pelted the tin roof above his head and created such a clamor that he could yell and sing and weep without fear that the German soldiers would hear him.
"Rain was my only friend," he said.
A crowd of middle-school students at the Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin listened Wednesday night as Elster, now 65, described how he survived the Holocaust. Through his words, the speaker transported the students to a horrific period in world history, a frightful reality that displaced Elster's childhood.
"I am very scared. Will my death be very painful?" Elster said, reading from his biography, which he wrote in the voice of a child. "I always pray to God, 'Save me. Why do we have to die? What did we do?'
"My questions to God never get answered."
Elster grew up in Sokolow Podlaski, a village in Poland occupied by German soldiers in 1940. The Nazis prohibited Elster from going to school. He couldn't walk on the sidewalks when Germans were present. "Dirty Jew," they called him. "Christ Killer."
The soldiers corralled Jewish families into the "ghetto" portion of town. They beat their prisoners and forced them to wear arm bands identifying their religious allegiances. Frequently, Jews were led away and boarded on trains that delivered them to concentration camps.
On the day when the soldiers rounded up the last of the ghetto's Jewish inmates, Elster slipped away from the crowd. He sneaked into a sewer and made his way to the home of a Gentile family who had agreed to take in his older sister. …