Life Connected

Holocaust Survivor Shares Her Story With Young People to Warn of the Dangers of Bigotry

Eva Nathanson spent the first 40 years of her life trying to forget her past.

Born in Budapest, Hungary, she was one of millions of Jewish children persecuted during the Holocaust. After her father was killed by the Nazis, she and her mother spent months hiding in attics, cellars and holes in the ground.

"I wasn’t allowed to move or cry… I learned to cry without a sound," Nathanson said.

Nathanson now lives in Los Angeles near her two sisters, who were born after the war. She says to this day, certain sounds and smells bring her back to the horror of her childhood.

"We were in Belgium and the room smelled like one of the places I was hidden and I woke up in the corner sucking my thumb in a fetal position." 

She began to heal through therapy and art. She now creates beautiful silver jewelry combining nature and the human form.

"My emotions get better after creating something," she said.

But the thing that’s proven to be the most healing is sharing her story. Nathanson now speaks to students all around Southern California. She formed a special bond with 16-year-old Landon Poon.

"When you told me your story I was shocked," Poon said.

He says he could have never learned in a text book what he’s learned from Nathanson.

"One of the biggest lessons I learned from Eva was the amount of perseverance she had in life …the struggle she overcome … it dwarfs anything in my life." 

Some of her students performed a play about her life. She’s teaching them to turn pain into art.

"Instead of using anger to hurt yourself or others - if you do some kind of artwork how much it will help you get over the hurt." 

Nathanson and Poon said seeing the recent rise in anti-Semitism in America makes them more committed than ever to never let her story be forgotten.

"It’s very important they know what hatred and bigotry can do," Nathanson said.

And, so now, at the age of 76, Nathanson is finally at peace – knowing she’s done her part to make sure history never repeats itself.

The program that connects Holocaust survivors with teenagers is sponsored by the LA Museum of the Holocaust

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