Echoes from the Past,
Voices for the Future
by Mackenna Alvarez
St. Angela Merici, Brea
Based on the Survivor Testimony of: Richard Billauer
What future generations extract from the Holocaust does not do
justice to the colossal acts of intolerance and injustice
wreaked by the Nazis in Europe during the 1930’s and 40’s.
It is difficult to fully comprehend the mass genocide of the European Jews, and millions of others, when taught in the bland
pages of a history book. To come to a tangible understanding of
the horrors of the Holocaust may require actual testimonies told
from a survivor’s perspective, such as Richard Billauer’s.
In order to prevent emotional detachment from the effects of
the Holocaust, it is essential to preserve memory, which is one
of the most evidential links to the past.
Richard Billauer is just on of the members in his entire family to
survive the Holocaust. At a young age, Richard was falsely
promised a safe return to his home town from his hiding place
in Russia, but was sent to an isolated concentration camp to
work instead. Unlike most others, Richard was able bodied
and continuously transferred to different camps to work.
Separated from his family, Richard was left to undergo the
harsh conditions alone. The average youth will never
be able to fully relate to the physical, emotional pain the
Holocaust survivors endured. Survivors are often regarded as
strangers from a different time. However, certain elements of
Richard’s testimony humanizedresonated with me personally.
Before being deported to a concentration camp, Richard lost
his mother, who was battling a disease. My own mother who
resembles Richard’s hardworking, eccentric mother, almost lost her life to a hemorrhaged liver tumor. I could have lost one of the most influential, important people to me, just as Richard did. The agony of abandoning her family is what my mother described going through and what Richard’s mother must
have felt. By ignoring the nightmare of the Holocaust, future generations are bred the ignorance of prejudice and danger of hatred. The Holocaust shows the extent of human animosity and how far astray people will be led for a cause. Despite historical mistakes, mass murders, bigotry, torture, war, and conflict are still rife in today’s societies. Humanity tends to neglect or worse, forget the atrocities performed by its predecessors. How do we define ourselves any differently from those who persecuted the Jews
when we too are victims of racism and hate? Society as a whole should utilize the events of the Holocaust to prevent a devastating repetition. I feel that along with the knowledge of life during the
Holocaust, I have gained a personal attachment to Richard. Because of him, I have motivated myself to reject unfairness. I may not have the power to alter the opinions of those committing serious acts of violence, but one person can have an immense effect on those around him. After all, Adolf Hitler possessed the power to manipulate a nation to impassively murder millions of innocent people. I know I am just one of the many Richard has influenced through his testimony.