Estelle Nadel was only 10 years old when she and her brother escaped Nazi captivity through a tiny window in their jail cell. For the next two years, she hid in a Polish attic, later coming to the United States in 1947. By the time she arrived in the United States at the age of 15, her mother, father, older brother and older sister had all been killed in the Holocaust. For Estelle, surviving the Holocaust was a matter of faith. Speaking about her experiences is a matter of truth. And, in her spare time, expressing herself through song is a matter of personal escape.
Although Nadel now speaks publicly about her experience in the Holocaust, she kept her stories to herself for decades after leaving Poland. It took the request of a daughter-in-law, a teacher, to break her silence and speak to a class full of strangers about her experience. Since then, she has spoken to countless audiences about the Holocaust. But for Nadel, the speaking never gets easier.
“It took me many, many years to be able to talk about it,” she said. “I've talked now, hundreds of times, and things have not changed. I still cry every time. I relive the whole scenario.”
Despite the difficulty, Nadel says that she feels called to speak. As a witness to the Holocaust’s horrors, she feels that it’s her duty to rebuke those who deny that it happened.
“There’s very few survivors left, and a lot of them don’t want to talk about it. I want the world to know that there was a Holocaust.” she said. “There is so much denial, that every time I get a chance to tell my story, I feel like I’m fulfilling something, for something that people are denying.”
Asked what advice she’d offer those currently displaced by war, violence and humanitarian crisis, Nadel said to simply hold on, and never give up.
“I’d tell them, never to give up hope,” she said. “You do reach that point in your life, after a time, where it feels like there’s no hope, but you just keep plugging along, and hoping, and praying that your life will change. And I've encouraged people to never give up hope.”
Faith and hope were how Nadel herself got through the unimaginable horrors of the Holocaust. For Nadel, a strong faith in God saw her through the darkest times of her life.
“I prayed to God all the time as a little girl. That’s what kept me going,” she said.
Nadel will share her story at a Lunch and Learn event at the American Red Cross Colorado & Wyoming Region office in Denver, Colorado, which will also include a presentation about the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) and how its partnership with the International Tracing Service (ITS) helps Holocaust survivors connect with family members and locate missing ancestors.
Since its inception in 2007, the ITS has grown to include millions of documents, including grave locations, prisoner cards, deportation information, displaced persons applications and more. Dr. Diane Afoumado from the USHMM will be on hand to provide detail on the ITS database.