by Elisabeth Lewin
Today, when I look into the eyes of animals in the meat industry or animals being hunted or otherwise terrorized, I see what I felt.
I was 4 years old, living with my parents in the Warsaw ghetto. Hitler's troops were going from house to house, taking the children from their parents, just as the people in the meat industry take baby animals from their mothers. The children who could walk were taken away, and no one ever saw them again. The despair of these parents and their children was horrible, and I know with all my heart the despair of the millions of mother and baby animals the meat industry separates every day.
The "downers" in the meat industry are the same as the older people, the grandparents, were then - the German troops would go after them, screaming, "For soap, for soap!" and drag their feeble bodies onto the train. The same train kept coming back and being filled again with people. They were packed together into freight cars just as the animals are packed together for transport today. One week, they loaded my grandparents onto that train, and I never saw them again.
My mother smuggled me out of the ghetto and into a Polish family's Warsaw home. But soon Hitler's troops filled the entire city of Warsaw. I remember peeking out a window of my benefactor's house at a little fenced park with a garden and bushes and a sandbox. I saw German soldiers shoot the mothers and children there, as they tried to hide behind the bushes. It was just like a canned hunt, where the men shoot the fenced-in and defenceless animals - I know just how terrified these animals feel. It's exactly the same. I saw buildings going up in flames. The train came back every day to be filled with the people of Warsaw, Jews and non-Jews alike. They were prodded and packed tightly together on it to go to the concentration camp and be killed, just as the animals are packed together today for transport to the slaughterhouse.
Then one day my Polish benefactor, her sister (with her little dog hidden under her coat), and I were loaded onto the train. Like cattle, we were given numbers to wear. Just like animals in the meat industry, we were packed so tightly together that we couldn't move. Some children were sick, wrapped in blankets, and had to be carried. We had nothing to eat or drink and barely enough air to breathe. People were coughing, crying, and panicking - just as animals, petrified and confused, scream in agony and panic aboard transport trucks. After many hours, the train slowed down and the German soldiers jumped off to make sure no one would try to jump from the train.
But some people did jump, and the Germans shot them. My mother's friend told me, "Jump", but I was afraid. Then her sister threw her dog off the train and jumped off after the dog. When I saw that the little dog had made it, I jumped too. Then my benefactor jumped. By a miracle, we all escaped, and this is why I am alive today. My mother was a journalist, and she kept a journal about everything going on. She wrote at night, by candlelight. She was killed, but my aunt published her journal, and today it is in every public library in Poland. It is also published in German, with my mother's picture on the cover.
Because of what happened to me during the Holocaust, because I was once a victim while others were silent about my pain, I don't eat animals and I don't wear animals. Every life is precious. Our silence must end