Holocaust survivor speaks to Johnston students

From News ReleaseApril 28, 2014 

  • More about Esther Lederman

    Esther Lederman was 15 years old when World War II started in Poland in September 1939. After the Germans invaded and enacted new laws against Jews, Lederman’s family left its hometown of Lodz, the second-largest city in Poland, in hopes of having a better chance of surviving the war in a small town.

    Lederman’s family suffered the indignities of ghetto life, painful discrimination and the imprisonment of her father in a labor camp. Lederman found shelter with a Catholic family, where she hid for 22 months with members of the Lederman family. Her father was liberated from Buchenwald, but her mother and sister were killed in Treblinka. Esther married one of the Lederman boys in 1946. Their son was born in Munich in 1948, and the family came to the United States in 1949. 

    Lederman speaks often in schools.

Holocaust survivor Esther Lederman recently visited Clayton Middle School to share her story with seventh-graders, who are studying the Holocaust.

As a teenager, Lederman said, she ran away from a Polish ghetto in search of her friend, Ezjel Lederman, who was in hiding with his family during the Holocaust. She stayed in hiding for 22 months, evading the harsh punishment of the Nazis.

“Many students enjoyed hearing her speak,” said social studies teacher Jackie Jones, who organized the assembly. “They were fascinated with the story of her life and how she survived the Holocaust.”

Lederman delivered her compelling story in a personal and relatable manner, and the students enjoyed the variation that her talk provided, Jones said.

“It was nice to have an up-close and personal presentation instead of reading about it in a history book,” said seventh-grader Taylor Allen. “We actually had someone to talk to about it.”

Students said the speaker was more interesting than studying about the Holocaust in the classroom.

“More people paid attention when she came rather than just reading it out of the book,” said seventh-grader Jessica Smith. “When people read out of the book, they don’t really care.”

Teachers agreed that the speaker gave students a deeper understanding of the content they studied in the classroom.

“(Lederman) is a real-life person who actually experienced all of the harshness and cruelty of the Holocaust and came out alive,” Jones said. “This experience allowed students to see firsthand how to survive it and the outcome.”

Students said Lederman’s speech gave them a personalized account of life outside of the Nazi-controlled concentration camps.

“I learned that it wasn’t only hard for people in the concentration camps, but it was hard for the people outside of the camps to make a living too,” said Sidney Buss.

Students also benefited from hearing about what life was like during World War II.

“(Lederman) stayed in a home and was in hiding instead of actually going to a (concentration) camp,” Allen said. “I would expect her to be in a camp, because when I think of the Holocaust, I think of people going to camps.”

Social studies teachers said they wanted students to gain a more rounded understanding of the Holocaust.

“We wanted students to have a better understanding of what discriminated groups went through during the Holocaust and how some people were able to survive all this cruelty,” Jones said.

Lederman answered questions after her speech.

“I liked when she came to the classroom to answer our own personal questions,” Buss said. “It was a lot more fun than having to read about it out of a book.”

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