By Anusha T.and Emily V.
On March 28, a special visitor named Marie Donner came to Chaboya to speak. As Marie says, she is "not a victim of the Holocaust, but a survivor of the Holocaust." She was born in Linz, Austria, which is the birthplace of Adolf Hitler. Donner is currently 89 years old, and she came to share her story of being locked inside of a synagogue while it was on fire. She refers to herself as a "living history book" after the traumatic experiences she went through as a child. Donner's birth mother died the day after her birth. Her adoptive mother made elegant hats for a living, even commissioned hats for the royal family. As a young child, "Life went along pretty smoothly." Donner was lucky to be born into a wealthy family. Her grandmother and family didn't like her birth father, because he was poor, but Marie liked him. "[My father and another woman] decided to kidnap me, they wanted me back." This caused him to lose all visitation privileges.
"In March of 1938," Donner continued, "Hitler and his gang took over Austria . . . If you were a Jew, you had no name, you had nothing, everything was confiscated." The Jews were forcefully thrown out of our homes. However, in the early days of the Holocaust, Jews were not yet murdered. "It was as though we had suddenly become poison," Marie remarked, looking back.
Luckily, Donner's parents managed to get her a spot on children's transport to England when she was eight years old. At the time, she thought she was being sent away because she was misbehaving, but they were actually trying to save her life.
Marie has the terrifying memory of being locked inside of a synagogue while it was on fire. "At gunpoint, [the Nazis] made [my father] destroy all holy objects." One Nazi commented that it was better to be shot than to be burned alive. Donner is haunted by memories of the Nazis cheering when they thought the Jews were burning to death. "I guess there is no explanation [for their hate] . . . What kind of humanity does this? And why?" Though she and her family escaped, the fire destroyed all of their belongings.
Now on her way to England by herself, Donner's only possessions were a small suitcase and a Shirley Temple doll that was a gift from her grandmother. By a miraculous stroke of luck, Donner was able to survive the day. Marie wanted to go watch a Shirley Temple movie with two other girls, but when they finished, they realized that they missed the train going to Scotland and the ship. Marie learned that the ship was torpedoed. There were no survivors.
She came to the United States in February of 1940, later followed by her parents.
"Why does anybody have that much hatred?" Donner challenged the audience: "Yours is the generation that might be able to change this."
When asked why she chose to share her story with children, Marie replied: "For many years I didn't want to talk about it, I didn't want to think about it." However, the experience of reaching out to others and sharing her experiences were invaluable.
But even after the devastating chain of events that forever altered the course of her life, Marie was adamant: "No, I don't hate [the Germans]. Hating only hurts me. No Nazi was ever going to see me cry . . . That's what's wrong with the world: everybody hates everybody. Everybody finds somebody to hate. [But] if you are not ignorant, if you are knowledgeable, this would not happen."
Marie Donner is a great inspiration to the world. Chaboya was lucky to have her as a guest speaker. Her story has broadened the perspectives of so many Chaboya students and teachers alike. Marie's words of wisdom will stay with students for the rest of their lives.
By Anusha T.and Emily V.
On March 28, a special visitor named Marie Donner came to Chaboya to speak. As Marie says, she is "not a victim of the Holocaust, but a survivor of the Holocaust."