Out of the Darkness: Into a New Life

Tags: Advocacy, Teens, Family, Young Adults, Federation

  • Share This Story

We recognize this year's Creative Arts Contest Winners, whose essays and works of art commemorate the Holocaust and heroism. Students' works portray this year's theme, "Out of the Darkness: Into a New Life."

1st Place - High School Creative Writing

by Jane Rader, 11th Grade

Heavy eyes, limp limbs.
I struggle to keep my eyelids from covering my eyes.
I know once they do, I may not be able to reopen them.
My heartbeats slow.
I can feel the weight of my body bearing down on me.
Eyes closed, I begin to wander into the eternal darkness that lies behind closed eyes.

I know that this is the end.
The light at the end of the tunnel.
Memories flash through my brain in slideshows.
The glowing smile on my mother’s face when she brought my sister home, and the look of fear on my mother’s face when the Nazis came to get us.
Father throwing me a ball, and laughing when I dropped it, and the single tear that escaped my father’s eye as we were separated.
My first love, and being betrayed.
Going to school every day and hearing the squeals of kids playing outside, and being at the concentration camp, hearing the sound of sobs every night.
The way my mother’s soups released the best essence, and the constant growl of my stomach every moment of every day.
The way I’d fall into bed after a long day of playing and exhaustion, and the collapsing of my body on the muddy ground and feeling of relief of knowing that this may all finally be over.

My memories subside, and I accept the inevitable.
This is the end.

A warm hand rests on my shoulder.
I can hear the sound of people talking.
I try to pry my eyes open but they remain fastened shut.
Is this Heaven? Am I dead?

“Hey buddy, can you hear me?”
I try to reply but all I can manage is a faint whine.
“He’s only a child, how could anyone do this?”
The warm hand moves to my face, and a wet cloth wipes the dirt away.
The water drips into my mouth and my tongue moistens.
My eyelids ease up, not knowing what to expect.
A smiling face looks down at me with sympathy.
“Hey little guy, I’m here to make you all better, we’re getting you out of here.”
A new warmth fills me, it’s relief.
My life will not be the same.
It may not be Heaven, but I still reached the light at the end of the tunnel.

2nd Place- High School Creative Writing

by Makayla Gough, 10th Grade

It was hard,
Almost unbearable,
but I became numb to it

I became numb to the darkness,
The starvation,
The dehydration,
Seeing the walking dead,
Bones protruding from every angle my body had

I became numb to the cold,
The cold winter months,
The even colder shade of the camp walls,
The constant buzz of the electric fence

I became numb to the pain,
The pain of the beatings,
Being whipped,
Losing my family,
Losing my life

No, It didn’t get easier,
After They took us,
Nothing got easier, nothing was easy,
Everything became normal instead
To me,
It was all normal,
After awhile

It was normal not to,
Have warm clothes,
Be healthy,
Breathe fresh air,
To see far

The air,
It was filled with smog,
The crematoria always burned innocent people,
The smog covered the warm sun,
And the beautiful blue sky

But, I forgot what beautiful was,
What was it?

I asked myself everyday,
“What is life?”
“What is anything?”

My questions were answered one day,
The crematoria stopped burning,
Someone came on the P.A. system,
I remember every word he said,

“The war is over,
you are free…
Come pick up an extra set of clothes,
from your barracks.”

The was the first time I smiled,
in 3 long years

They opened the gates,
The sun was warm,
The sky was a beautiful blue,
And the grass,
A beautiful green

They gave us
And new clothes

That day we were given a new life,
I was able to escape the darkness,
I was given hope about my family

As I walked away from the death camp,
I knew,
I knew my new life would begin,
But it would never be the same as my old life

This one,
Oh, but this one,
Would be so much better.

3rd Place - High School Creative Writing

by Lydia Knauer, 11th Grade

We are Free
Or so they tell us
Free from the torture and starvation
Free from the abuse and dehumanization
Yet am I truly Free?

Years have passed
Yet I still remember
I remember being torn from my home
I remember being shoved onto a train
And given false hope that I would be taken somewhere safe

I remember that day
The day that my feet touched the soil
I remember looking around
And seeing nothing but sorrow
I remember realizing that I was not safe
I remember being separated from my mother
I hadn't realized then
That I would never see her again
I remember the shot that killed my father
And as he laid dying
They took my sister away
Down to the crematories
Where her ashes would lay

I remember the smell
The smell of burning flesh
I remember the cries of agony and protest
As they were separated from their families
Forced to give up their old identities
Expected to live like animals in cages

No one cared if we lived or died
Those outside the gates shed a blind eye
They acted as if they did not know
As if they did not hear the screams
Or did not see the trains packed full of people
They claimed to not hear the gun shots
Maybe they pretended that the sound was fireworks
And the smell was just the after effect of them being set off
Perhaps they did know
But they simply did not care
After all the tragedies were not their own
They were safe
The events in the camp had nothing at all to do with them
If only that were true

The air around the camp
Tasted like smoke
That came from the flames
And caused me to choke

I remember being whipped and beaten
Of not having enough food to eat
Or water to drink
I remember my ribs
And how they were so prominent
I remember smearing my own blood on my face
To make myself seem healthier

I remember wishing that someone would help me
That the people hurting me would open their eyes
And realize that I was just like them
A human
Forced into captivity to be treated horribly
They could have stopped
Or at least shown some mercy
Instead they smiled as they beat me
And laughed when I cried out

I remember the pain
Not from the lack of food
Or the whips and the lashes
And beatings and slashes
My pain came from my loss
The loss of my home, my family, and myself

And for what you ask?
What was all this for?
It happened because of who I was
Because I wasn't “Ideal.”
The Holocaust happened
Because I was a Jew

I remember the day that the soldiers came
They acted friendly as if they felt sorry for our pain
They took us to hospitals
To fix what they could have prevented
The doctors were nice
Yet every time they came near
I flinched as if they had another reason to be there

The people claimed that they did not know
They did not know we were being treated so
They gave us money and apologized
But if you looked closely you could see them
Hiding behind their lies

They knew what had been going on
Maybe not at first
But as time passed
They had to suspect
That the people going into the camps
Would never come back

Years have passed
And I’ve started over
I have a Husband, a son, and a daughter
I have my grandchildren
Whom I share my stories with
Yet I am not the same
Because I still have these memories
Memories that haunt my dreams
Memories that will never truly leave
And although I am not a prisoner physically
I am still a prisoner mentally

1st Place- Middle School Creative Writing

by Shira Rosenberg, 6th Grade

The lights came up just as I said my last line, and on cue, I thanked the audience. I retired to my dressing room on the third floor of the Broadway Theater when I heard a quiet knock on the door.
My granddaughter, Sarah, comfortably walked into the room as if she knew where everything was located, even though it was her first time there. She stood, gazing hypnotically at a small silver box to the right of the mirror. Sarah had been in many of my other dressing rooms, though it seemed she had never noticed the silver box.
As I peered over Sarah’s shoulders at the box of memories, I became lost in the long forgotten memories of my past, which brought tears to my eyes. Sarah opened the silver box and found letters. They were written in beautiful script and signed Abraham and Judith Kazakenstien. I began to tell the story of my past to Sarah.
It all started on a humid autumn night, September 9, 1938, the day that came to be known as Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass. I had been woken up by the sound of shattering glass outside my window. There were screams that could be heard from inside the buildings; screams of people being tortured by the ruthless German soldiers. Outside my window, there were men being forced to scrub all the years of dirt, grime, and blood off the stained pavement.
My parents had also been startled awake by the commotion, and they came in to check on me. By that time, it was already two in the morning. Our neighbor rushed into the apartment in a panic and informed us that our local rabbi had been killed, and that we should flee the country immediately.
I hurriedly packed up my most prized possessions, including the small silver box that had been given to me on my eleventh birthday, and we set off for the train station. As the train was about to leave, three armed Nazi soldiers approached us. They told all the Jews to get off the train, and one soldier even pointed a gun at me.
My family and I ran as far away from the station as we could, and soon stumbled upon a young couple. They saw our worried faces and few belongings, and offered to give us money, food, and shelter until it was time to leave on the boat for America.
We finally arrived at Ellis Island in June of 1939. I felt so scared and anxious, coming into a new country and not even being able to speak a word of the language! I remember looking up at the massive, beautiful statue with her hand raised, holding a torch that symbolizes freedom. Tears stung my eyes as I thought about the future ahead.
We arrived at the desk of Ellis Island, only to be told that our name had to be changed. Although shocked, my father decided to change the family name from Kazakenstien to Kay.
Once we entered America, we found a very small apartment that only had one bedroom for my parents and I to live in. I only could find a part time job as a seamstress for three days a week. One day, on my way home, I was singing a song, when a woman spotted me, and asked me to sing for her. She introduced herself as Madeline, and told me what a beautiful and angelic voice I had. She offered to train me as a singer in her house in Philadelphia. I ran home to tell my parents, and they were convinced that I would make something great of myself.
The next day, I packed up my belongings, and set out to start my new life. Once I arrived, I set the silver box on the table beside my bed. That night I dreamt of becoming an inspiration to people. I loved being able to sing and learn, but I missed my parents dearly. They wrote me letters, which were deposited in the silver box, and I kissed it every night before going to sleep. One day, all my hard work paid off. When I felt comfortable enough with performing, I auditioned for a Broadway show and was cast. I climbed my way up the ranks.
Thinking back to those days in Austria, and that horrific night, I often wonder if my parents hadn’t chosen to leave at that exact moment, would we have suffered the same fate as so many others. I never would have met Madeline or been given this new life in America.
As I finished telling my story, I glanced over at Sarah. She was still studying the silver box, and then, as I did so many years ago, she kissed it in the same place I did.

2nd Place - Middle School Creative Writing

by Nora Igelnik, 6th Grade

Hello, Mr.Liberation,
Nice to meet you.
I’ve been stuck in the dark, a darkness that engulfed me like no other. It
was soft at first, but then became a darkness that filled me with fear for
more days than I can count. Now, the light has finally come in. Thank You.

Hello, Mr.Liberation,
The number replaced my identity. The number changed my life. The
darkness intensified. The bold, dark ink makes me cringe everytime I look
at it. It reminds me of the horrid days I’ve been through, We’ve been
through. Yet it reminds me that I made it through. The light has come in.
Thank You.

Hello, Mr.Liberation
The darkness came with no regrets, just losses, losses of my people. The
darkness took those innocent souls with him. It nearly took mine. Those
souls are free, because the light has come. Thank You.

Hello, Mr.Liberation
Even though the darkness rained over my head, I stood strong through this
journey, with only myself and my tears to lead the way. Then the light
came, and wiped my tears away. Thank You.

Hello, Mr.Liberation,
We proved them wrong, I am still here, and I am here to stay

3rd Place - Middle School Creative Writing

by Joshua Murdakhaev, 7th Grade

I can see it. It’s right there, haunting me.
I can almost feel it, almost taste it.
It has been too long since I have seen the light.
For years now, all it has been is darkness and hatred.
Cold, dark nights creeping toward me, ready to launch itself at me.
But I knew it would come. It would save me.
The light of new life, it could help.
All of our pain and suffering,will come to an end.
If only it had come sooner, it could have saved the rest of us.
There are a few of us left, but that is enough. The Germans, they have tortured us.
They made us see things, children my age should not see.
But I always had hope, I knew they would come, our savior, our knights in shining armor.
People thought it was too late, too many tears shed, and blood lost.
But the liberators have come, they put a stop to all of the agony.
The evil ones will be stopped, I know it.
It’s all coming back to me, the good times, when we were happy.
We were a complete family, not this horrible, broken one.
We could have lived a happy, perfect life, but instead we are left with this torment.
But our saviors, they promised us a new life, and better life.
I can finally live life with confidence, not fear.
These are no longer the words that I have to believe.
Maybe I can live with pleasure, or joy, yes, that would be amazing.
We now can leave this treacherous place, and live in a beautiful home
Without having to worry if I will live to see the next day.
It has come now, I can feel the light.
I am living the light
And I am never letting it go.

3rd Place - Middle School Creative Writing

by Matthew Kirstein, 6th Grade

Child on Kindertransport
Away to a place not knowing where,
As I hear the dreadful sound,
My home is no more,
And the wheels roll on.

The lovely days have vanished,
In the hands of my identity,
will I be loved on the other side,

A man,
A uniform with badges,
The hated sign,
Is the unwanted in the future,
Will I stand at the other side,

As the wind rushes to me,
And the people wait,
A song and a dance,
My new home.

20 year old
Friends and family,
A loss of identity,
As the fire comes,
I am here.

The bangs are heard,
The feared has come,
Out the door,
The flames have consumed,

A crowd like me,
A blazing flame,
Surrendering to the fire,
We and our homes are ash,

Our arm is burnt,
A terrible number,
The children cry,
The fire surrounds.

A Nazi Soldier
The water evaporates,
The eye is happy,
As we go on,
Our families are fed.

As we eat,
Our family is together,
A cry outside,
They know I did this,

The table is empty,
As I see what the flames have touched,
I see the burns,
But our family is fed,

The burns leave marks,
The marks continue,
Each one hurts me more,
Can my flame last.

A Parent in the Holocaust
As loved ones pass,
One can go
And one may not,
Many pieces,

Love can be cracked,
As the wheels roll on,
Some identity is gone,
Identity means much,

We start with two,
We end with one,
Identity cracks,
But one is still here,

Having one so long,
Worsens the lost,
Still having one,
Reminds us more.

Sponsor in London

Children need homes,
My home is full,
More keep coming,
His home is here,

As the time passes,
The normal is changing,
Love is growing,
But people grow too,

Rules die out,
Change has happened,
The more get jobs,
The less they stay,

As we grow,
And I get old,
We are attached,
And the favor is returned.

1st Place - High School Visual Arts

by Mollie Goldman, 11th Grade

Learn More: Advocacy, Teens, Family, Young Adults, Federation