Alfred Dreyfus tell his story to HAT students

by | May 3, 2013 | Other News

Last month, fourth and fifth graders at Hebrew Academy of Tidewater were privileged to hear Alfred Dreyfus tell his story of survival during the Shoah. With his son Mark, he told the students that instead of hearing a story of horror and death camps, they were going to share the story of how the kindness of strangers and friends, good sense, luck and miracles from God enabled the survival of Alfred Dreyfus and his immediate family.

Alfred Dreyfus grew up in Germany and was nine years old when Hitler came to power in 1933. He recalled that there were only two Jewish kids in his school class and the teacher screamed at them in front of the class, “You dirty, stinking Jews. I want you out of here.” The two boys were then beaten during the class break.

The school incident became the deciding factor for his family that they would move to France. In France, they stayed in Strasbourg until 1938 and then moved to Pontoise in 1939, where he remembers hiding in a cave behind their home during daily bombings in 1940.

After returning home from the cavebomb shelter one-day, the Dreyfus’ neighbors came to tell them that the Germans were less than a day away. Dreyfus remembers the pandemonium of everyone fleeing south. Like so many, they went to the train station to be told, “No more trains are leaving from here. You must leave.” By luck, his mother saw one train about five rows down the tracks. She made them walk there and get on. They were so exhausted they got on and feel asleep. To their surprise, at 5:30 in the morning, the train started moving and two days later they arrived in the south of France.

Dreyfus told the students about more near-miss incidents where luck and intuition saved his family from being handed over to the Nazis. Eventually the family made their way to Switzerland where again, they got lucky and were allowed to stay.

HAT students were mesmerized listening to his story. Mark Dreyfus pointed out to the students that his father was their age when Hitler first came to power. He also engaged the students with questions of how they would have reacted at the various decisions that his father had to make.

The Hebrew Academy faculty, administration and students are so grateful to the Dreyfus’ for sharing their story. Rabbi Wecker, head of school, reminded the students that they are the last generation to hear live witness from the Shoah and that it is not only a great privilege, but a responsibility to never let the world forget.