The darkness of the Holocaust can be felt by the photos and videos captured, but as years pass the survivors left to give voice to this tragedy lessen.
This is why when we contacted the Buffalo Holocaust Remembrance organization, they pointed us in the direction of Sophia Veffer.
With urgency, we contacted Sophia and she immediately replied, "When can we meet?"
When we knocked onto Sophia's apartment door just days later, she invited us in with a warm embrace and then a quick, "I have coffee on and bread fresh out of the oven. Let's eat first then talk."
Her beautiful compassion was overwhelming. However, we weren't ready for the information she would throw at us in regards to the Holocaust, and why she is so vocal about her horrific experiences.
Though she says some experiences are too painful to relive, with tears in her eyes, she remarked that it's important to never...ever...let a tragedy like this repeat.
Her raw interview here: please be aware that this topic may be sensitive to some.
Hope Rises: Sophia, what do you want the world to know about the Holocaust?
Overnight…you lose your family, you lose your friends, you lose everything. And it can just be very traumatic for a child, you know what I mean. And you have to adjust right away.
When I was 11, I went into hiding, forced away from my parents. I was living in Amsterdam at the time. I lived in the same community as Anne Frank. We had the same socio-economic background and we both went to the same schools - we both went to public schools.
My story was kind of similar because I also went into hiding and people ask me, how come not everybody went into hiding like Anne Frank, but you see it was a total different world. At first there was no communication, right? You didn’t know there were concentration camps, and you had no idea that no one ever came back once they were sent to one.
Hope Rises: I bet it was so terrifying being in hiding and not knowing what to expect or what could happen at any moment's notice...
The very first house I went into, I was in hiding and you had to be very silent. You couldn't make any noise, and I was just a child. I remember my first night in this house I broke something. I think it was a cup and saucer, but I don’t remember exactly. The woman who had me in hiding went absolutely frantic. She wanted to throw me out after 8:00 p.m. which is a death sentence, because they patrol the streets to find the Jews. So, you eventually learn to become a psychologist and figure out how to best fit your personality with total strangers...just to survive.
In a certain way I still am that way.
Hope Rises: Why is it your mission to speak out about this unthinkable tragedy? How can you when it's so emotionally taxing to remember?
In total, the Nazis killed all together in only 8 years’ time, think about it...11 million people. And almost 2 million were children (silence)...
Almost 2 million were children.
They invented gas chambers and the crematorium and they would kill 10,000 people in one day like it was a contest to kill even more the next day. It was an efficient way to kill those numbers in that span of time.
Actually most Jewish people were not killed in Auschwitz. It was near Auschwitz at a camp called Sobibor. My whole family perished in Sobibor.
Remember...one single individual can do their part to change the world. Hitler did just that and we have to never let history repeat.
There’s a saying that we have to repair the world – that means, everybody, not only Jewish people. Everybody was born in this world, right? They can improve and make the world a little bit better by the time they pass away. How can they do that?
We all have to do good deeds. And live a life of purpose, I plan to do just that and with my purpose, I will make sure no one forgets or disbelieves.