She is a Holocaust survivor with a story no other has told. She is a survivor with a past that will always be apart of her and all those who survived. She is Dora Apsan Sorell, a Holocaust survivor who told her story of surviving one of the most deplorable events in our history.
On Wednesday November 2, 2011 at Mills College, in the Gathering Hall of the Business school, Ms.Sorrell explained that at age 22 the Nazis took her and her family to Auschwitz. Auschwitz was a concentration camp in Poland where many Jews waited to be killed, beaten, or forced to do hard labor. Once there she and her mother were separated from two of her brothers and her father. That would be the last time she would see either of her two brothers and her father. But, many years later, she would be reunited with her other five brothers.
Once in the concentration camp, Ms. Sorell got separated from her mother. She went to the right, while her mother went to the left where death awaited her. That day eighty percent of the Jews who had arrived at Auschwitz were killed. From then on, Dora was on her own, awaiting freedom in the harsh days that would follow. Many girls would be killed from exhaustion, starvation, or the gas chambers by the time liberty would come to her on May 6, 1945.
During her days in the concentration camp, Ms. Sorell was tattooed with a number that was her new identity. The number was A∙7603, her new name. She and other girls were completely shaved, barely fed, and given only cold showers without soap. Selection was the process by which those who looked weak were sent to die. Six hundred girls started in Auschwitz and only 412 were to alive a few months later.
On December 21, 1944, Dora was so desperate to live, she screamed out in German for the Nazis to take her to work. They took her along with 200 other girls to Czechoslovakia to a work camp. While there, she got to send letters to people so they could help her. She once asked for a toothbrush and received one two months later.
On May 6, 1945 Dora found herself free when the Nazis fled due to the approaching Soviet army. All the girls rejoiced with screams, tears of joy, and hugging. In the following 10 days, Dora would gain back 20 pounds. She also obtained a notebook where she wrote her day-to-day experiences and reflected on what she had lived through. Dora left the camps after the Czechs said it was all right to leave. It took her two weeks to get back to her hometown of Sighet, in current day Romania.
Once she got to Sighet, she found no family members. A gypsy family was occupying her family’s home. She was alone in her own hometown with the exception of one person who was waiting for her: her high school boyfriend.
Life Academy 10th graders were very engaged by Dora’s stories and had many questions to ask her. Because the 10th graders wrote essays on what they believe caused the Holocaust, one student asked Dora; “What do you think caused the Holocaust?”
Ms. Sorell answered, “Why did people take so long to do something about six million Jews dying?”
Another interesting question was whether she had ever returned to Auschwitz. Dora responded that she did return with students two times.
Another student asked why she had decided to keep her tattoo. Dora responded that it has been a part of her identity for 76 years and that it is a part of who she is. She asked the audience if they would want to change their eye color after 76 years, and then said she would like to have her number inscribed on her tombstone.
After she told her story and answered many questions, students were able to buy her book. Her book is entitled Tell The Children, and she wrote it after her first grandchild was born. Her book is in the form of letters to her first grandchild. The purpose is to keep telling her story so it will never be forgotten and to recount her experiences and losses during the Holocaust. The 10th graders got their books signed, got their own tattoos drawn on their arms by Ms. Sorell, and took many pictures with her.
At age 90, Ms. Dora Apsan Sorell wants to live until the age of 101, like the character Rose from the movie Titanic. She wants to live 11 more years in order to continue passing on her story to those who might not believe the Holocaust actually happened.
Ms. Hatch and her students are thankful for Ms. Sorell, a woman who is strong and testifies to a story that should be used as a reminder to prevent something like it from happening again.
Edited By: Eva Oliver, Digital Journalism Teacher