MAMARONECK, N.Y. -- Dr. Salomea Kape, a survivor of Poland's Lodz Ghetto and a Larchmont resident, said it's her mission to talk to students about her wartime experiences. "I'm one of the lucky ones," she said. "If I would not tell the story, who would?"
And so, talk she did. All day, in fact, to Mamaroneck High School (MHS) tenth graders in Evan Madin's English class.
In her last class, the 90-year-old admitted she was a little tired, and to bear with her, but then stood up, used a pointer on her PowerPoint presentation, and launched into her story.
"I was a girl with beautiful plans," she said. "I knew my path, to go to a good school and complete my university studies." But then the Nazis came and, needless to say, her life, like so many others, was forever changed.
She was 12 when she was forced into the Lodz Ghetto with her parents. An only child, she found comfort in the school that was set up inside the ghetto and with her dear friend, Stella, who encouraged her to act like a typical teen despite their circumstances. That meant, Dr. Kape said, "talking to boys, reading poetry and singing."
Thanks to her parents, her school, and Stella, she tried to stay as optimistic -- and remain as human -- as possible. It wasn't easy with near constant starvation, severe overcrowding, unsanitary conditions and rampant disease. She admitted she found it particularly hard to stay positive when Stella was killed by the Nazis.
Dr. Kape credits her mother, a midwife with a sixth sense, for being able to smell danger and get her in the right line when the ghetto was liquidated. She was one of the few left behind to clean up the ghetto, and was rescued by the Russians.
Her story, too long to complete in one period, had the students quietly attentive and full of questions. "It's one thing to read about Hitler in a history book and another to interact and hear from someone who is explaining all the things the Nazis did and what it meant to her family," said Larchmont resident Eddie Hill.
Madin said thinking outside the box and bringing experiences inside the classroom is part of MHS's focus on authentic learning. "This is living history," he said. ""I want my students to think about the fact that one day their kids will ask them about this. There are not many opportunities left to hear from Holocaust survivors."