Tale of Survival on a Day of Remembrance

Freelance Reporter
Oregon Daily Emerald
University of Oregon, Eugene

As a 16-year-old girl, Eline Hoekstra Dresden was taken to the Kasteel De Schaffelaar, a castle and transitionary concentration camp run by the Nazis in 1939. On Monday, 66 years later, she told her story of fighting to stay alive through the Holocaust to students and community members.

As an 83-year-old woman she has survived two strokes and said she wakes up with nightmares. As a young woman, she said her productivity and vitality as a worker kept her alive. But now that her health has restricted her physical abilities, she wakes up fearing death because of her inactivity. That’s why she’s touring the country, writing about her experience and attempting to maintain the legacy of the roughly 10 million people who died during the Holocaust.

Dresden’s account is part of Yom HaShoah, a national holiday in Israel that memorializes victims of the Holocaust that is meant to educate about injustice and genocide.

During her presentation, she slammed the desk in front of her violently, and mimicked Nazis threatening her father at the door to their house: “They like to terrorize, the Nazis. They’d bang on the door and ring the doorbell and scream ‘Open up!’ My father opened the door and I was so scared, terrified,” Dresden said.

She said she’s often asked how she survived her time in concentration camps.

“Part of (how I survived) was because I could handle the work and do it right according to the SS,” Dresden said. “My father, my mother, my brother and myself went to (Schaffelaar) because we belonged to a certain group of Jews. … Mostly for me it was luck that I survived. The intellectuals were spared for a long time: teachers, doctors, engineers. My father was able to get on that list,” she said.

Dresden’s presentation preceded a 24-hour reading of the names of Holocaust victims in the EMU Amphitheater that began Monday night and runs through this evening.

A panel discussion tonight and a screening of “Life is Beautiful” on Thursday are also part of the university’s Yom HaShoah events.

“It’s very, very important to never forget,” said Hal Applebaum, director of Oregon Hillel . “It’s also very important because as our speaker said today, genocide is not a thing of the past. So part of what holocaust memorial week has come to mean is not only to remember everything that befell the Jewish community and others during World War II, but also that we have to do everything we can to combat injustice, intolerance, racism, hatred and genocide in the world today.”

Jonathan Rosenberg, director of the Jewish Student Union, said speakers such as Dresden are important to preserve history.

“These are important times to take the opportunity to speak to a survivor of the Holocaust and hear the living memory of it,” he said. “In twenty years we won’t have this opportunity …The primary goal is remembrance, simply put, a way of honoring those who’ve died in the holocaust. It’s a way of looking back.”

The panel conducted tonight will be moderated by Rabbi Jonathan Seidel and is located at the Hilyard Community Center, 2580 Hilyard St., at 7:30 p.m. Mariana Weiss, another survivor of the Holocaust, will present some of her experiences.

Weiss said Monique Balbuena will provide another unique perspective on the panel.

“[Balbuena] is from Brazil. She’s going to read some poems, in Latino, to tell a little about the Sephardi Jews, the Jews of Greece … There’s another person interested in literature, another who is interested in film,” she said.