The Atmore Advance
March 18, 2007
By Tray Smith
Students at Escambia County High
School welcomed a special visitor to their campus March 13. Agnes Tennenbaum, a
Jewish survivor of the Holocaust, spoke to them for more than an hour about the
time the Nazis held her in captivity during World War II.
"l would venture to say that
probably 98 percent of students will never get to hear from a Holocaust
survivor. This is an enormous opportunity for you," ECHS Principal Kyle
Ferguson said as he introduced Tennenbaum to the student body.
"There were so many times I
wanted to give up, so many times I had lost hope, and the only thing I can say
is that God must have had a plan for me," Tennenbaum said. "Maybe
that plan was being able to tell my story to you today."
Tennenbaum is different than many
other victims of the Holocaust because her father was actually born in New York
City before he moved to Hungary with her grandparents.
"They should have stayed in
NYC," Tennenbaum said. "Because doing so would have allowed them to
avoid the Holocaust."
After the Nazis occupied Hungary in
March of 1944, Tennenbaum said that she and her family did not know what to
expect, but they knew it was not good. One evening, her sister went into the
capital to visit the Opera for her birthday, and they never saw her again.
Tennenbaum, her husband and her
family were eventually captured by the Nazis. They were transferred to
Auschwitz concentration camp on a train.
"We went two days with nothing
to drink," she said. "The thirst was terrible. I do not think that
many people know what true thirst is."
She added that there was no room to
sit down on the train, which only had one window. When they arrived at
Auschwitz, her cousin, her aunt and she were separated from her mother, who she
never saw again.
Describing the conditions at
Auschwitz, Tennenbaum said she was forced to sleep on the ground. Their diet
consisted mostly of stale bread and soup. From her barracks, Tennenbaum could
see the smoke rising from the crematoriums and was told by a roommate that
their fellow Jews were inside the crematoriums.
Tennenbaum was selected to work in
a factory outside of Auschwitz in late 1944. There she worked alongside
Prisoners of War from allied countries and manufacture munitions.
“I just kept waiting for the
Americans to arrive,” Tennenbaum said.
Eventually, the Americans did
arrive. Tennenbaum was able to communicate with relatives in New York
immediately after being liberated by U.S. G.I.s. Four years later, in 1949,
Tennenbaum moved to New York City, where she lived for 20 years. During that
time, she became an American citizen. She currently resides with her son and
daughter-in-law in Mobile.
“From the day I came to this
country, I have been proud to be a citizen,” Tennenbaum said. “America has
never let me down. However, I do not think that many people in America realize
how truly great their freedoms are.”
Tennenbaum was the only member of
her family to survive the Holocaust.
Melinda Luker, who teaches ninth
grade world history at ECHS, initiated the idea of having Tennenbaum come
“I am glad our students had the
opportunity to learn about the Holocaust from an actual Holocaust victim,”