Vol. 13


Let Us Not Forget

c. 1945; between Buchenwald concentration camp (central Germany) and southern Poland

My great-grandpa Fred Slen was a prisoner during World War II because he was Jewish. At the beginning of the war, he was just seventeen. He was put in a concentration camp, and his entire family was murdered by the Nazis. He endured a forced march between camps, where all he had to eat was raw potatoes that he dug up with his own hands, and he had to squeeze rainwater out of his hat so he could drink. He survived the war living in a concentration camp with very harsh conditions.

Toward the end of the war, when my great-grandfather was about twenty, he was put on a train in a cattle car with the other surviving Jews from his death camp. One of his good friends, Joe, was with him on the train. The Nazis were moving the prisoners away from the front lines, because they were trying to hide them from the Americans. After a while the train stopped, and the doors of the train were opened. The Nazis announced to the prisoners that they were free to leave if they wanted. Many people started to run into the nearby woods and the fields to be free.

My great-grandpa did not trust the Nazis and did not move a muscle.

Joe was about to run out of the train with the others when Fred held him back by the arm and pleaded, “Don’t go. It’s a trick!”

Thankfully Joe considered my great-grandpa’s request, because a few seconds later the Nazis opened fire with machine guns and killed all the people who had run from the train.

My great-grandfather saved his best friend’s life that day — and his own! The boys hugged as the Nazis closed the doors of the train and continued down the track to another camp, where Joe and Fred lived out the remainder of the war in horribly harsh conditions.

When the war was over, both Joe and Fred had survived and were liberated by the Americans. They remained the closest of friends for the rest of their lives.

It is my job as a descendent of Holocaust survivors to tell this story for generations to come so tragedies like this won’t happen again. Let us not forget!

Ivy Slen; Missouri, USA



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