March 26, 2007

Holocaust survivor shares story

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

Dassel-Cokato eighth graders listened attentively while Holocaust survivor and author Sabina Zimering shared her tragic story of survival last week at the Performing Arts Center.

Zimering was the guest speaker as a finale for the eighth grader’s two-month interdisciplinary study unit on the Holocaust, along with Holocaust survivor Margo DeWilde, who was heard later in the week.

The Holocaust unit involves all eighth grade courses learning about the historical significance of Hitler’s genocide in Germany during World War II, according to Al Muller, eighth grade social studies teacher.

Zimering spoke of her family’s struggle to survive Hitler’s regime, and read excerpts from her book, “Hiding In the Open: A Holocaust Memoir.”

Zimering’s story began as a Jewish teenager at the start of World War II. Rumors were flying about Hitler’s plan, but her father refused to believe it.

Finally, when danger was inevitable, the Zimering family went into hiding. Zimering, her sister Helka, and her mother received fake IDs. Her father and brother weren’t as fortunate, were found, and taken to a concentration camp.

It wasn’t long before her mother was there as well, after a Polish gentile recognized her mother and turned her over to the Germans.

Working undercover as a Polish Catholic girl in a hotel for high-ranking officers in Nazi Germany, Zimering and her sister worked until the war’s end.

Zimering described a close call with a hotel guest who asked about her Jewish facial features and if she had any Jewish heritage.

“I quickly got the fear out of my voice and said, ‘No,’” Zimering told the audience.

Although Zimering and her sister survived the war, her father and mother did not.

Her father died just days before liberation during a death march, and her mother was sent to the gas chamber at Treblinka. Her brother, who was in the same concentration camp as their father, survived.

After the war, Zimering and her sister returned to the Ghetto, but didn’t find any Jewish neighbors or friends.

Students had the opportunity to ask Zimering questions. One student asked, “Did you ever see Hitler?” to which she replied “No,” but remembered hearing his voice all over the radios.

“He had a strange and unpleasant voice,” she said.

After the war, she studied to be a doctor in Munich, Germany.

One student asked if it was hard for her to study and attend classes among German students.

“It was hard. I would look at the boys and think ‘What did you do during the war?’” Zimering said.

Sharon Wahala read Zimering’s book before inviting her to visit.

“It is outstanding,” she said.

Having read many books on Holocaust survivors, this book is different because it goes beyond the end of the war, she said.

The book continues through Zimering’s college education, her immigration to America, and coming to Minnesota.

“It shows her life beyond the Holocaust. It is an encouraging message and a profound story,” she said.

Wahala and Paulette Carlson, also an eighth grade teacher, traveled as a group to Poland and visited concentration camps in the 90s. Both have great interest in the subject.

At the end of the program, students who preordered Zimering’s book came down to the stage to get her autograph.

Her book can be purchased at most book stores and Amazon.com. For a personally signed book, Zimering can be contacted at (952) 545-4324, or e-mail her at rszimering@msn.com.

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