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First Person: Holocaust Survivor Reflects On Charlottesville

Fanny Krasner Lebovits in 2011.
Fanny Krasner Lebovits
Fanny Krasner Lebovits in 2011.
First Person: Holocaust Survivor Reflects On Charlottesville
First Person: Holocaust Survivor Reflects On Charlottesville GUEST: Fanny Krasner Lebovits, Holocaust survivor

Most Americans watched as white supremacist rallied in Charlottesville, Virginia a week ago. A car allegedly driven by white supremacist slammed into a group of counter protesters killing a woman. Four Holocaust survivors, that was trying. Some rally years carried flag with [ NULL ] symbols. One survivor who lives in La Jolla says she was aghast at the hatred she saw more than 70 years after the Holocaust. As part of the first-person series, she shares her story. When I saw the pictures of Charlottesville, I could not -- at first, I was stunned. I could not believe it. There is so much turmoil in the world with ISIS constantly and with all the fighting that is going on that I was beyond myself. Absolutely. I saw pictures that I did not want to see anymore in my lifetime. I thought we were beyond that but it shows the seed has not died. It is still there. I just hope for the sake of my children and my grandchildren that what I have done in my life and after my turmoil in life and the losses that I had that they would never have to experience it again. [ MUSIC ] My name is Fanny Lebovits. I am a Holocaust survivor. I was born in lottery a, in Liepaja with the Nazis came to power. I was 19 years old. The first thing what they did was they got some able men and they took them to a square and they gathered there and they had to come. They issued an order. They had to come there. I never saw my father again. And none of my uncles either. What history tells us and what we found afterwards is that they were shot in a small place near the sea they found all the bodies, you know? Afterwards. We lived there until 1942 until June and then they put us in the ghetto. We were living in the ghetto until 1943. At night, the holiest night, of the Jewish religion, there was an order that we must pack up only the bare essentials of what we needed. Be ready at a certain time. We were already and they took us to the cattle cars and trucks. They pushed just into the cattle cars. By then, we knew there were concentration camps. In a cattle cars, of course, there was no water or no nothing. It was taking us through the night. You know? It was 400 kilometers from our city. They put us in rows, left and right. So, my little sister who was eight years old, she was put to one side. My sister, myself and my mother, they put us to the other side. I pleaded with my mother. Stay with us. She was pushing to go to the other side. She said to me and my sister, she said, you can look after yourselves. My little girl cannot. She went with her. That was the last time I saw my mother. Hatred is something that cannot even be described. It is a short word, hate prayer it destroys the world. Love builds the world. It is easy to forget. Quite honestly, I did not want to speak about what I experienced for a long time, even after my children were born. I wanted to spare them from the hardship and all the things that I went through. I did not want to burden them. I wanted them to grow up in a normal society without having pain and guilt and things like that. The seed of hate has been so deeply sown before. It is against juice, against Blacks, against Muslims, Chinese or Asians. I think that seed has spread over the time for some reason. They must try out love. Spread love and see how it feels against hatred and destruction. My children are my greatest -- my greatest victory over all the evil that I saw in my life. They are my greatest wealth and of course, the crown of it is that I have grandchildren. I have great grandchildren. That is the biggest victory I had over Hitler. That is my greatest victory, that I have over Hitler and over evil. [ MUSIC ] Fanny Lebovits is 94. That was produced by Michael Lipkin.

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.

Corrected: October 5, 2021 at 11:11 AM PDT
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