by ROWENA OREJANA
Holocaust survivors Bob and Freda Narev want people to stand up and do something if they see evil being perpetrated.
The couple related their experiences as children during the Holocaust and how they escaped concentration camps, on April 11 at the Eucharistic Convention at Sacred Heart College in
Mr Narev said not all Germans actively took part in the atrocities. “But a big percentage of the population just stood by and allowed it to happen,” he said.
“We’re here and we’re very fortunate to be here. We ask ourselves at the early stages of our lives in New Zealand, why did we survive? What was the purpose of our survival. And we came to the conclusion, is one thing we can do is to share our experiences with others as we do today,” Mr Narev said.
He was born in 1935 in a German town north of Frankfurt. A year later, his father, who was a teacher, lost his job because he was a Jew. They moved to Frankfurt so his father could teach at a Jewish school, but all Jewish schools were subsequently closed down.
He said they reached a stage where all Jewish people were made to wear a yellow Jewish star. “Yellow is for cowardice. We were no longer citizens,” he said.
They were later put in overcrowded concentration camps in Czechoslovakia, he with his mother in one barracks and his father in another. His father fell ill and died. One of his earlier
memories of his father was being hit by German soldiers until his father’s nose bled.
In February 1945, he said the Nazis unexpectedly called for 1200 volunteers to go to Switzerland. He convinced his mother that they should go.
Fortunately, the train did finish up in Switzerland, where they were liberated.
Mrs Narev, on the other hand, was from Widze, Poland which was conquered by Nazis. Her father was one of 15 Jewish leaders put to death.
Her mother saved her by leaving her in the care of a Catholic family. She was three years old. “That was the last time I saw her. She disappeared in the Holocaust. It was brave of my mother
to do that, and I was glad that she did,” Mrs Narev said.
Three years later, she was claimed by her 18-year-old sister, Lisa. They went to a displaced persons camp run by the United Nations and later moved to New Zealand.
“I survived, but what I lost,” she said, pausing. “I really am a woman who lost her identity. I don’t even have a record of my birth date.”
She said she has built a family history with her husband, Bob. “I think, the secret of surviving is: Don’t grieve too long about the past, but carry on.”
Mr Narev said that as a result of Mrs Narev’s connection to the Catholic family, they have a strong affinity with Catholics. “Freda can thank the Catholic family for saving her, and I can
thank the Catholic family for giving me Freda,” he said.