"Hello. My name is Hans Salomon and I am going to tell a small part of my story tonight. A Story about what happened to me and my family when I was only a young man. When I was a child, life was good for me and my family. We lived in my beloved Manheim, Germany in peace. I went to school. We had friends and family. It was normal. Then Adolf Hitler came to power and everything changed, and I assure you - not for the better. By 1940 I was forced to work at hard labor at Seilwolf and Company in a suburban section of Manheim. At the end of the day on October 21st, all of my Jewish co-workers were called by the foreman and told not to report to work the next morning. Jewish people all over Manheim were told the same thing. When I came home that night, my parents and I examined the situation. We had talked to our friends and learned that we would be deported to some unknown place in France. What could we do? What should we pack? Who could think straight? The events were especially hard on my dear mother. The next day we were rounded up and brought to the train station. Where were we going? Would would our fate be? The main ride was frightening, especially for my dear mother. Often the train stopped and was surrounded by uniformed Nazis with guns pointed at us. There was a blackout in the train. Even the windows were covered with black paper. Finally after a few days we arrived at a concentration camp called 'Camp de Gurs." Our Nazi guards were replaced by French gangsters. On the train, the first fatality was reported. An individual had taken an overdose of sleeping pills.Camp de Gurs was a horrible place. Men were separated from women. Dad and I were sent to the same barrack. No electricity, no water, no beds - only straw to sleep on. You would treat your cattle better. And when would we see my dear mother again? We had left Manheim and arrived in Hell. There were many more Jews brought to Gurs from other provinces. Time went by. Conditions continued to be terrible. Bad food, no food, no medication. Older people took sick and died a miserable death. Several old men from my hometown died in my arms. The total count of prisoners in Gurs was 25,000, many from Belgium, Holland and Luxemburg. And then, one of the rumors turned out to be true. We were to be transported to another camp; Rivesaltes. Rivesaltes was better, but still the conditions were terrible. Bad food, hard labor. Not a life fit for human beings. At least my dear parents were still in the same camp with me. Because a young man, I was transported to Brest to do hard labor - carrying concrete bags uphill all day. And finally back to Rivesaltes. It was there that my angels appeared: Ms. Perdricet of the YMCA, Mr. Donald Lowrie of the American Red Cross, Pastor Andre Dumas, and Mr. Tracy Strong of the European Student Organization. I often talked to Tracy about my feelings towards my parents, my religious upbringing, and my views towards life. He often said to me, "Chin up" and he promised to help me and my friends. And he did.
I don't know how exactly he did but somehow Tracy and his colleagues got me and several friends out of the camp to Le Chambon. Le Chambon is the home of the Huguenots, a Christian sect that has also endured persecution throughout the years. It was there that we found refuge with many French farmers. The Cotte family housed me and cared for me until the Germans came to the area. Once again, my hero Tracy Strong arrived on the scene to help me and my friends. Along with Pastor Trocme and Pastor Bettey, Tracy provided us with illegal papers and we began our escape across the Alps to Switzerland. My dear parents were not so fortunate. In my last communication with them, in August of 1941, my dear father wrote, "Tonight, we will leave Camp de Rivesaltes to be transported to a camp near Paris. The name of the camp is Drancy. Drancy is the last stop before deportation to Auschwitz in Poland. And dear Hans, you know what that means. be strong and pray for your mother and father, as they love you forever and ever. Pray that..." It seemed to me that my dear father could not go ahead to finish this letter. Thus I lost my beloved parents who will be eternally in my heart. Despite the fact that my four friends and I had not climbed mountains before, we made it to Switzerland. But we did not have proper papers and we were sent back by Swiss officials. We were taken prisoner again after we crossed the border and sent to Rivesaltes. Once again Tracy came to our rescue - this time with forged papers. And soon "The Big Five," Egon Gruenhut, Szlama Szmarago, Herbert Sterner, and Kurt Muellner and I were on our way to real freedom. I dedicate my story to my dear parents, my beloved wife Ruthie who I lost few years ago, and my family members who are with us tonight. I dedicate my life to teach about the Holocaust and promise to devote 24 hours a day, 7 days a week as long as I can draw a breath. And I thank Tracy Strong for my life and on behalf of the dozens of people he saved. Thank you."
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Transcending Trauma: Survival, Resilience, and Clinical Implications in Survivor Families
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