This picture was taken at the Westerbork Transit Camp, 1943. It’s from the Yad Vashem Archives

This was a camp where the Jews were held before they were sent to other camps with much worse conditions. Here they were treated fairly well and there was a school with sports and they were fed well. The truth was that it was only to keep them thinking that things weren’t so bad so that they would leave peacefully.

 But, even though the conditions were not horrendous, we also need to realize that these Jews were forcibly taken from their homes, forced to live with strangers. There are no men in the picture so it is not clear where their fathers and brothers were taken.

This is what two of our JGU Online Students wrote about the picture:

Chana W: The third girl to the left is smiling and I think it is because she is happy that they get to light the menorah in such a hard time. I learn that we can always be happy with what we have.

Tzipporah Prottas wrote her story as if she was the 5th girl from the right.
My face reveals my  mixed emotions.  I look surprised; surprised that a menorah gleams before me, wondering how I’m still alive.  My family’s gone missing along the way. I don’t know how or where they are. My happiness with having a menorah is tinged with sadness. This is my first time lighting the menorah without my family, and I don’t know what to think of it.  But for now, I am happy I get a chance to do the mitzvah.  My eyes glaze over lightly as I absorb the rich, holy flames of the menorah.  Back to my present self:  I am most grateful on Chanukah, for the bravery that has been instilled in me, to persevere, by my ancestors, forbears, teachers, and family.
Now you pick a girl in the picture (Don’t circle or mark the paper and don’t share with your friends who you picked.) Pick one of the faces and then write your story in the first person, as if you were that girl in the picture. What were you thinking? How were you feeling? Your girl can reflect back to what their Hanukkah was like the year before…they can basically write whatever they want. You can name your chosen person, she can be related to others in the picture or all alone. Depending on who you pick, you will have a very different story to tell.