Here’s to you, Nesse Godin

Posted on June 12, 2009

Nesse Godin is just a woman who personifies the best of what is in us all. She is a survivor of the Holocaust – but even more pertinently, she was at the desk to speak to children in the Holocaust Museum when the attack began. Once more, Nesse survived.

I just got through watching a videotaped interview with her and she is just a beautiful woman. She says that she survived ‘by the grace of God above, and by the kindness and care given to her by Jewish women. She was in the ghetto, the labor camps, the concentration camps and on a forced death march – but she is not bitter. She says all the kind Jewish women who saved her asked was that she remember – she never let people forget what happened to them and that she tell others so that it never happens again. Nesse Godin has kept that promise, made when she was a child, separated from her family and she tells and retells her story – not to aggrandize herself, not to solicit pity or arouse hatred for others – she knows its too late to ease their pain or change the outcome. She tells the story so that we know what happened to a child – to millions of children and adults, that we might prevent it from ever happening again. She also is active in efforts to stop what is happening in Darfur and in making sure that children never go hungry.

She tells that when she was liberated at the age of 17- she weighed only 69 pounds, her face swollen from being beaten – she cried because she did not know where she was to go or what she was to do, since she thought she was alone. Fortunately, she was reunited with her mother in Poland after the war.

Now she volunteers regularly at the Holocaust Museum to talk to children who visit the museum, share her story – she is still making good her promise to tell the story and teach others so that it won’t happened again. She was sitting at the donor desk with another lady, American born, when she heard the first shots. She thought it was an explosion and just froze. The other lady pushed her under the desk and shoved the chairs aside from where they were going to hide so it would appear no one was there. Then, she said the other lady, who knew her history whispered to her not to worry – to get up further under the desk and she would lay over her to shelter her – that she would take the shot. Later, when they heard people crying to evacuate, she lost track of the lady who had pushed her under the desk. She says it was some time before they were reunited. She knew the security guard who was killed – she says he always gave her a hug and kiss when she came in to volunteer and he had done so that morning. She related being fearful at the time – wondering if this man had a group behind him – was it starting again?

No, Nesse – not this time. This time you are safe. Here’s to you, the beautiful woman who lost her name during the war to be called 54015 instead. Here’s to you, the beautiful woman who does not know how to cry because tears would never have stopped the unspeakable things that happened to you. Here’s to you, the beautiful woman who lived through so much to marry and raise her own children and has volunteered so much of her life and given so much of her time to make good on a promise that she made to those kind and caring Jewish women who helped a little girl to survive – that they would not be forgotten and that what happened to them would not happen again.

L’chaim, Nesse, L’chaim!

Last edited by katie on June 13, 2009, 3:11 pm

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2 responses to “Here’s to you, Nesse Godin”

  1. Good write.
    But it is happening again, Katie. That same cruelty, that same ruthlessness, that same willingness to follow "orders" and treat other human beings as expendable objects, the primitive -animal- pleasure gained from inflicting pain and death on others… that streak in Man is flourishing in the world today.
    Then again, hope and goodness are also alive. And strong.
    And that is the point of your write.


  2. Be careful, friend – sometimes when you stare at the dark too much it keeps you from seeing the light.

    Nesse said in her interview that when the guards had beaten her so badly and she had seen the skeletal remains of her family and friends on top of a hill, that she prayed to God to let her die – that she could once again be reunited with them.

    It was then that those kind, Jewish women – who had lost their own children also – gathered around her and told her that the only one who wanted to see her dead was Hitler – that she must fight to live, even if just for one more day.

    That’s what we have to do – to fight for love and light for just one more day. Anyone can last just one more day, Francis. It’s the only way I know — just to keep putting one foot forward. Sooner or later, if enough of us do that, there will be progress.

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