By Kim Walter -- firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- Modern day citizens have their share of troubles, but after listening to Marcel Drimer's childhood stories, one would find that these trying times are nothing that can't be handled.
"We thought about giving up ... but we didn't," said Drimer, while speaking at the Warren County Community Center Tuesday night about his experience growing up through, and surviving, the Holocaust.
Drimer was the inaugural speaker for the Front Royal-Warren County John Marshall Speaker Series, sponsored by area businesses. Just last week, Drimer met with President Obama along with other survivors for Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Born in 1934, Drimer was only 5 when Germany invaded Poland and his hometown of Drohobycz fell to Soviet control in 1939. The town was small, with a population of about 10,000, he said.
"You had some well-educated Jews who were doctors and lawyers, but then you had others who scraped by to make a living," Drimer said.
It wasn't until July 1, 1941, that the Germans infiltrated the town and began putting restrictions on Jews. Drimer said he and his family were only allowed to walk in certain places, and were required to wear arm bands identifying them as Jews.
Drimer described the terror that came with German "aktions" or violent operations against Jewish civilians. During one specific German aktion, his family hid in a wheat field under his mother's beige coat.
"We started hearing Germans screaming, dogs barking, people crying, begging, for their life, and then shots fired, and then it was quiet for 10 or 15 minutes," he said. "And then it would start all over again."
"It was like a symphony of death."
Shortly after, as day turned to dusk, Drimer said he and his mother and sister encountered a German soldier, and they all made eye contact and stopped.
"It was only for a minute, but it felt like an eternity," Drimer said.
The soldier, for what reason Drimer does not know, turned around and walked away.
Drimer also talked about a "tale of two coats," when he, his mother and sister were hiding in an attic for an extended period of time. His father would bring them food when possible, but they went without for several days when his father didn't come back.
"My father eventually bribed his way out of prison with a fur coat," Drimer said, as Jews were not allowed to have such things at the time. When his father returned, he brought a peasant woman who had some provisions. Drimer said his mother was willing to barter with her, and the woman said she wanted Drimer's sister's winter coat in return for some bread.
"And my mother said, 'But that is my child's winter coat,' and the woman said 'It doesn't matter, you will all be dead by winter,'" Drimer said.
Once liberated in August 1944, Drimer had a hard time acclimating to life post-war. He said his muscles were weak, so he had to relearn how to walk.
However, Drimer is thankful to have survived. Only 400 people from his town were able to get through the Holocaust, as was his father, mother, sister and two uncles. He now lives in Burke with his wife, while his son and two grandchildren live elsewhere.
"Out of the 6.5 million people killed, 1.5 million were children," Drimer said, his voice cracking. "Think of what they could have done for this world."
Drimer said he's written about more than 10 separate stories from his war experiences, and has been told he "writes with an accent." He said it is important for him to write and speak, as there are still some individuals who insist the Holocaust never happened.
"I was a witness to what was happening, and by you listening, now you become witnesses," he said. "We must see to it that nothing like this ever happens again."
For more information on Drimer and the stories of other survivors, click here.