On September 16th the tenth-grade students had the privilege to listen to Hendrika Da Vries speak about her experiences living in Amsterdam during the time the Nazi soldiers had taken over. She had shared her stories on how the Holocaust affected her as a young Christian girl. She started off by telling the audience the message, “don’t let bullies win ever, be the heroes and heroines.” She wanted us to take this theme with us as we live for the rest of our lives.

Her story was both heartbreaking and touching. Being such a young girl and having to experience this has made her the strong woman she is today. She was 5 years old when Germany first invaded her home, Amsterdam. However, still full of her childhood innocence, she didn’t realize what horrible things were occurring until her father and she were on their way to visit their friends who happened to be Jewish. 

“I saw something that I vaguely recall, but within that unfocused memory I see, a small girl. I heard her scream and saw that she was crying because she dropped her red doll. She was being dragged by these two tall men towards this large green truck. My first instinct was to run and get the doll for her, I was a little girl too and I know how important dolls are to us. Running through the crowd, I was jerked back, my dad pulled me… it was the first and only time he had hurt me.” 

This is the beginning of her experience of war, which had given the audience a vivid picture of her early life. She then continued to go on about how her father had been taken to be a slave of war. This was usual for men from the age 15 plus who were in good shape and not Jewish.

On the other hand, she also touched on how they had hidden a Jew, and how her teacher was even dragged out of her class sobbing, for reasons she still does not know to this day. Hendrika had to go through the winter with her mother starving and freezing. The war was stripping away all their survival necessities.

On the whole, as the war was coming to an end, there had been a parade. She and her mom had gone to watch when two Nazi supporters had decided to do a mass shooting. Many people had died, but Hendrika and her mother managed to hide behind a post.

Nevertheless, Hendrika still repeated many times throughout the speech, “I am so lucky.” Her being through these things, the last word you would associate with it is lucky. However, her being so strong and making it through everything does show she has quite the amount of luck and gratitude. 

The 10th-grade students here at Avonworth had taken away numerous emotions and reactions.

 Jada Guiste says her biggest takeaway is, “even the people who were not Jewish suffered. They were separated from their families and starved…I felt kind of sad because that whole time in history was just horrible…” 

Jacob Chestnut says his biggest takeaway is, “You can go through tough times, but you need to persevere through it all. Her presentation hit me with strong power that shows she has a story that was very different from other survivor stories. The end had me nearly in tears because it was so personal to her.”

Taea Schriefer says her biggest takeaway is, “she was an amazing presenter, I have never heard someone tell a story so well. I felt inspired. I was feeling so many emotions at once.”

Nicky Kam says his biggest takeaway is, “My biggest takeaway from it was that there had been many perspectives of World War 2 and that people had vastly different experiences than others,” He then went on to say, “I don’t think that I had much emotion, but it was just really interesting and I really liked the presentation in general.”

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