Holocaust survivor, FDR impersonator visit Hinsdale Middle School
Students listen to guest speaker RJ Lindsey playing the role as Franklin Delano Roosevelt during World War II Day at Hinsdale Middle School. Veterans and guest speakers were in various class rooms throughout the special day. | James C. Svehla~for Sun-Time
Updated: April 22, 2013 10:18AM
HINSDALE — Students at Hinsdale Middle School heard first-hand Friday from a Holocaust survivor.
Magda Brown of Skokie has spoken at HMS many years, because her testimony is so compelling.
When she was 16 living in Hungary with her parents, the Nazis took over, first segregating the Jews and other people and then shipping them to concentration camps.
Brown described how in June 1944, on her 17th birthday, she was among 80 people “squashed together” in a cattle car. She stood for three straight days, so her parents would have room to sit. They had no food and no water.
When they were unloaded, they were told to leave behind their belongings. She was separated from her parents.
“My mother ended up in the gas chambers,” Brown said.
She and other young women had their head and bodies shaved, and “then they sprayed disinfectant on our freshly shaved skin,” Brown said.
She was imprisoned at Birkenau, a concentration camp near Auschwitz, Poland. Five hundred people slept in one building, with no beds, blankets or pillows.
Brown was selected to work 12 hours a day in rocket and bomb factory, which the prisoners had to walk 5 miles to reach.
In January 1945, when the Allied liberation was imminent, the Nazis began destroying the gas chambers and marching thousands of women prisoners out of the concentration camps to hide their crimes.
Brown was on the Death March, when she and others saw a barn in the distance. They ran for it and hid themselves under straw and manure, until they saw soldiers from the Sixth Armored Division.
“I think the soldiers were crying as much as we were,” Brown recalled.
Other speakers included a woman whose parents left her as a young child to live with a family in the French countryside. They thought it would be safer for their children than in the cities during the war. They all survived, but the woman said she felt abandoned by her parents.
The students wrote letters to the speakers after their talks.
“Your story really moved me,” wrote one student. “Your sister and you didn’t know your parents when they came back for you.”
Another wrote, “It must have taken a lot of strength to have both your parents taken away from you at such a young age and have to grow up with complete strangers. I admire your strength and courage and I hope someday I’ll be able to mirror it.”