Holocaust Survivor, Maud Dahme, Shares her Story with Seventh and Eighth Grade Students
On Friday, April 6, BFS hosted a special visitor. Maud Dahme, a Holocaust survivor, spoke to the seventh and eighth grade classes and many faculty members about her riveting story of being a “hidden child” during World War II. Kim Troup, Upper School Social Studies teacher, uses the Facing History and Ourselves Holocaust curriculum in her seventh grade course, so Ms. Dahme’s presentation provided a powerful learning connection. In the eighth grade English class, taught by Kara Shaw, Upper School English teacher, the students recently read Elie Wiesel’s, Night, about Wiesel’s experiences in Nazi concentration camps, giving them some background prior to hearing Ms. Dahme’s story.
Maud Dahme was born in 1936 in the Netherlands. She told the students about how the conditions changed dramatically for her family and other Jewish people after Hitler invaded the Netherlands in May of 1940. Jews could not own a car or take public transportation, and there were many other restrictions placed upon them. She recalled how her mother attached yellow stars of David onto their jackets, which at the age of 5, Maud did not fully comprehend the significance of. By the summer of 1942, things were becoming very dangerous, so a Christian friend urged Maud’s parents to send Maud, age 6, and her sister Rita, age 4, into hiding. With the help of the Dutch underground resistance, Maud and her sister were hidden for three years by two different Christian farm families. The girls assumed different names and were told never to reveal they were Jewish. She conveyed the fear she and her sister felt at being discovered and the experience of not having enough to eat during the time she was hiding due to wartime food shortages.
Maud described the absolute joy she and others felt in the small town where she was hiding when Canadian soldiers arrived in 1945 after the Germans had surrendered. A soldier gave her a chocolate bar, which tasted so delicious to her and this memory led Maud to title her memoir, Chocolate, The Taste of Freedom: The Holocaust Memoir of a Hidden Dutch Child, which was published in 2015. While Maud and her sister had been in hiding in the countryside, Maud’s parents hid separately in the attic of a car dealership in the town where they had been living. Maud’s father never went outside for three years. After the war ended, Maud and her sister were reunited with their parents, but their reunification was challenging, as the long time apart meant that Maud and her sister did not immediately recognize their parents, and they had to get to know each other again.
In 1950, Maud’s family decided to immigrate to the United States, after they had begun to rebuild their lives in the Netherlands, feeling that a fresh start would benefit Maud and her sister. Maud later married and had four children, and now has nine grandchildren. She has dedicated her life to Holocaust education. She explained she was compelled to share her story after she watched a 60 Minutes program in 1981 that featured Holocaust deniers.
Maud spoke animatedly for about an hour and then answered many questions from students and faculty. She reflected on how grateful she is to be alive and to have lived the long, full life that she has. Although during her early years as a child, she was witness to the capacity for human evil, she pointed out that at the same time, she was conscious of the generosity of many strangers in the Dutch underground, who saved her life, as they risked their own. BFS is so grateful to Maud Dahme for sharing her remarkable story with our community, one that everyone who heard, will not soon forget.