One woman’s story of survival

One woman's story of survival

Barbara Turkeltaub was a child Holocaust survivor during World War II. She recently came to GlenOak high school to share her story. She is the last living holocaust survivor in Ohio.

“To explain the Holocaust is very difficult for someone like me, “ Turkeltaub said.

Turkeltaub was born in Vilnia, Lithuania. She lived with her father, mother Mina and her three-year-old sister Leah.

“I remember playing soccer with some of the other children on a cool autumn morning,” Turkeltaub said. “All of the sudden, planes came flying down low, real low. Then the soccer ball we were playing with went into a ditch . I was lucky because the planes have dropped bombs right where I was playing. After that, all I could see was smoke and my father rushing towards me saying ‘Barbara, we need to leave now.’”

Later that same day, her father told her something that no child would ever expect at as of an young age as Barbara was.
“He came to me and said ‘Barbara, there is a very bad war going on in the world. The only way that we can survive is if you and your sister will go on your own. If anyone asks what your name is, just tell them it’s Barbara and nothing else’ ,” Turkeltaub said.

The family was forced to move to the ghetto.

“There was barely any food for anyone, no showers, nothing to do. We all had to compact in a 15 by 20 foot room to sleep,” Turkeltaub said. “But the worst of it all was all the killing the Germans did. Taking innocent lives for what? If I commited a crime, I wouldn’t go to hell because I have already have been there.”

Turkeltaub later escaped from the Ghetto with her sister, after her mother smuggled them out at night without drawing any attention to them. Her mother then found a German couple to take them in.

Turkeltaub and her sister stayed at the German couples farm for around six months. In late June , she had to make a very tough decision: whether to stay or leave the farm.

“One night, I overheard the farmer talking with his wife about turning my sister and I over to the Germans. He just kept saying take the two Jews to the Gestapo,” Turkeltaub said. “So I immediately woke up my sister and when the farmer and his wife fell asleep, we ran like bats out of hell.”

The sisters eventually found an abandoned building and lived there for awhile. Than a priest found them.

“I turned and it was a priest and he said ‘Young child, what is your name?’ I remember what my father told me and responded with ‘I am Barbara.’”, Turkeltaub said. “Then he said something that would cherish my life forever. ‘Barbara, would you like to stay with me at the church?’.”

He hid them in his car and delivered them to a convent where they would live out the rest of the war.

While staying at the convent, Barbara went for a walk. She came across something that would haunt her for the rest of her life.

“I heard sounds going pow pow pow! I ran to the sounds and saw the most horrifying thing; SS officers dug what looked like a grave,” Turkeltaub said. “In this pit, I saw naked women with their children. The men started shooting right at the women. As they laid there dead, they let the babies stay alive. I began to cry when I felt something touch my shoulder.”

It turned out to be a nun from the convent who had gone to look for Barbara to bring her back.

Barbara and her sister lived with the priest for four years. One day, as the girls were playing, they were reunited with someone they thought they would never see again.

“The nuns and priest rushed to my sister and I and said ‘There is a women looking for her two children.’”, Turkeltaub said. “We didn’t want to see the woman. This went on for days and then my sister and I worked up the courage to go see who this woman was. We didn’t recognize her at first but when she took of her scarf, my heart sank. I was finally reunited with my mother.”

Turkeltaub explained that she did not know the war had ended two years earlier. She would later learn that her father had died in the Holocaust and her mother had been in a concentration camp.

Later on, they decided to move to the United States Of America. Here she would get married and become a mother of a son, Mark, and a daughter, Esther.

She was also honored by current governor of Ohio, John Kasich. She travels all around to tell her story of survival

“My message is simple: never stop learning, continue to lead, grow, and explore,” Turkeltaub said. “But more importantly, connect with different people around the world. If you see injustice happening towards anything, religious beliefs for example, don’t pretend to not see or know these things. Just make this world a better place.”