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First Person: Holocaust Survivor Reflects On Charlottesville

Fanny Krasner Lebovits in 2011.

Credit: Fanny Krasner Lebovits

Above: Fanny Krasner Lebovits in 2011.

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Special Feature First Person

KPBS Midday Edition's First Person series tells the stories of average and not-so-average San Diegans in their own words. Their experiences, both universal and deeply personal, offer a unique lens into the news of the day.

Fanny Krasner Lebovits was 19 years old when the Nazis invaded Liepāja, the Latvian town where she grew up. The Nazis quickly killed her father, along with most of the town's Jewish men. The family was eventually sent to Kaiserwald concentration camp, where she and her teenaged sister were separated from their mother and 8-year-old sister. Lebovits never saw either of them again.

Lebovits and her sister were transferred to several other concentration camps before they were put on a German military barge bound for the Swedish island of Gotland. Nearly all of the passengers were sick with typhus or dysentery, so officials barred them from docking. The boat was stuck at sea for nine days without water or medical supplies before a Russian plane attacked and set the barge on fire. Lebovits and her sister escaped to a nearby boat, crawling over narrow wooden planks connecting the two ships.

Thousands of San Diegans have heard Lebovits' story, which she tells in the hopes that similar hatred won't be allowed to flourish. Now 94, Lebovits was aghast as she watched coverage of the white supremacists rallying in Charlottesville, some carrying Nazi flags.

"When I saw the pictures of Charlottesville, at first I was stunned," Lebovits said. "I was beyond myself, absolutely. And I saw in front, pictures I didn’t want to see anymore in my lifetime. And I thought it was beyond that. But it shows that the seed hasn’t died. It’s still there."

As part of our First Person series, Lebovits shares her story.

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