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Holocaust survivor talks to students about experience

Modified: Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

Andrew Schot, 81, is a Holocaust survivor. He was surrounded by students after his talk Friday at Marana High School.

MARANA — About 200 Marana High school students packed into the school library to hear the words of a survivor of the Holocaust on Friday.

Andrew Schot was 11 years old when the Nazi’s marched into his homeland, the Netherlands. He and his family were moved to the capital city and all Jewish children went to school together. One of his classmates was a little girl named Anne Frank.

“When the Nazi’s invaded the Netherlands they moved all the Jews to Amsterdam,” said Schot. “They probably thought that they could keep a better eye on us in one place. So we moved in to my grandmothers house which was right across the street from Mr. Frank’s Business.”

This was the house where Anne Frank wrote her famous diary and where the family hid for two years before they were betrayed to the Nazi’s.

The 81-year-old man’s memory is sharp as a razor. He remembers the day that he and his group of friends went to the edge of their village to see what these Nazi’s were like. He remembers a few cars and armored vehicles including a tank or two and then came the troops.

“There were hundreds and hundreds and they seemed to just keep coming,” said Schot. “Now our roads and sidewalks were paved with bricks and cobblestones and on the German boots there were little cleats, almost like football cleats. And the noise they would make was just something you could never forget.”

The sound and the size of the men, big and muscular, left an image in Schot’s mind that is right at the surface, all the time.

Schot had to wear a yellow cloth with the Star of David stitched on. He had to wear it all the time or he would be taken away immediately.

Then came the night when his own father was taken away. Four big Germans came and carried him out of the house. He would never be heard of again. There were stories about where he might be, at this camp or that one, but nothing was heard and when the war ended he was the only family member to not return to Schot’s grandmother’s house.

It became too dangerous for any Jews to live in the buildings in the richer part of town where Schot’s family lived. So his family moved to a cannel boat. It was dilapidated and rain came pouring in. Food was hard to come by so his sister, who was just 17 years old, decided that she and her little brother had a better chance in the rural part of the country. They left grandma, mother and other stowaways on the boat.

“We hid aboard a freighter that sailed across the Zuiderzee, a shallow bay of the North Sea,” remembers Schot. “We arrived in a very small village and immediately started two years of moving across the country side.

They took chances. One night a German supply convoy stopped on a road not far from where they were hiding. Instead of running away he and his sister moved closer and began inspecting one of the trucks at the rear.

“I reached in and got my hand on something big,” Schot remembers. “I couldn’t get the thing out of the truck from where I was standing. My sister came up to help me just as the truck drivers were finishing their cigarettes. With her help I pulled the thing out of the truck and knocked both of us off the road and into a ditch by the side that was full of water. No one heard us dropping into the water and both of us started laughing because it just seemed like the funniest thing we had experienced in a long time. The trucks drove off and it was then that I discovered my prize. It was a huge wheel of cheese. We laughed harder and I made off with a good tasting cheese.”

After two years of being chased across the northern farmlands, Schot and his sister were sleeping in the upper floor of a barn when they were shocked awake by gunfire. It would be their time to be taken away but not without a chase.

“I ran between two buildings away from the sounds of the guns and then I was hit in the chin by something very hard and hot. I fell to the ground and looked back and heard more gunfire and lost sight of my sister.”

There were about a dozen Jews in the group. All were loaded on trucks and taken to what was called a gathering camp. Not much time was spent there. They were rounded up by the Nazi’s and loaded into railroad cattle cars.

“It was so tight but I had a view out of my car and across the way I saw my sister. I called her name but she could not hear me. A Nazi guard did and he hit me in the face with the butt of his rifle.”

His train was destined for Bergen-Belsen. They moved out of the makeshift station and traveled to another gathering camp. More Jews would be added to the train but the last two cars were to be separated from the train to form another train that was headed for a different camp at Poppenburg. Someone made a mistake and the last three cars were sent instead.

“The camp had factories. Some made cars,” Schot recalled. “The situation in the camp was horrible. I spent my days weeding potatoes. When the cook boiled potatoes for the Nazi guards we would get the water that the potatoes were boiled in. There were horrible cases of dysentery. Of the 65 men who lived in the barracks with me only five made it.”

The British liberated the camp. A very skinny 13-year-old boy weighed 79 pounds when the British tanks arrived. After regaining his strength and some pounds, Schot took a train back to Amsterdam to his grandmother’s house. With time everyone returned except his father.

For the complete article see the 05-02-2012 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 05-02-2012 paper.

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