Survival Letter

Virginia Holocaust Museum

2000 East Cary Street

Richmond, VA 23223

December 3, 2014


Dear Hanna Szper:

I hope you’re doing well. My name is Madison Howard, I work for The Virginia Holocaust Museum in Richmond, Virginia. We were shuffling through the new shipment of crates when we discovered one had pictures from the Holocaust. I found this photograph of some prisoners at the Belzec camp and starting doing some research for the photograph. I came across your story online, written by your son.  I found it very intriguing. I can’t even begin to imagine that the experiences that you faced nor the ones that the people in the photograph had faced. I hope that you can help me to better understand more about this photograph, even if you were not there.

In your story, you talk about a train, a freight train. In the photograph that I have it shows a group of people, men and women of all ages, they look so laid back and relaxed, I thought to myself, why, why was it that they were so laid back, why were they so calm?

Was it just the way the photographer captured the image or was it how those people felt?  In your story you explained how when you got on the train they told you to jump out of a window, and they said that the train would be moving at a slow speed. In the photograph it appears that the men and women aren’t yet at the Belzec camp, but I wonder if they are sitting there waiting for the train to come get them. A photograph can say so much, but yet so little.  Would it be possible for you to help me understand what these people were thinking and possibly feeling?

Would it be possible for me and the Virginia Holocaust Museum to use your story in telling the tragedy of the Holocaust?  If so, would you please answer a few of my questions so that I can better understand the experiences you faced and what happened to you while you were there?   When someone had asked you, “what concentration camp the train was heading to,” why is it that you seemed upset? I don’t want to assume that you were, but your response was so very angry. You didn’t like to talk about it, did you? I know a sorry most likely won’t help, but I am truly sorry for what you had to go through.

Thank you so much for allowing me the opportunity to read your story and understand how you and many others felt. My hope is that this tragedy will never come to pass again.

Sincerely, Madison Howard



Found Your Story here


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