Somersworth students hear first-hand account of Holocaust

SOMERSWORTH — History came to life Wednesday for Somersworth Middle School eighth-graders when Holocaust survivor Kati Preston described the horrors she experienced as a child.


By Judi Currie
jcurrie@fosters.com
Posted May 6, 2015 at 7:18 PM

SOMERSWORTH — History came to life Wednesday for Somersworth Middle School eighth-graders when Holocaust survivor Kati Preston described the horrors she experienced as a child.

Preston, 76, now lives in Barnstead but was a 5-year-old Hungarian child when her father was taken away to a Nazi death camp. She described the time leading up to that as one of “bullying on steroids; it starts slowly with insults, then a push or a shove and builds from there.”

Prior to that, Preston’s life was idyllic, an only child and the apple of her father’s eye. But then things began to change in her hometown of Nagyvarad.

“Jews were not allowed to go to school, they were not allowed at university, and I wasn’t allowed to sit on the park bench,” she recalled. “Jews weren’t allowed to take certain buses, they weren’t allowed to be certain places, and very slowly it became a sort of strangling situation.”

Preston said people started whispering and stopped talking when she entered a room. Her mother assured her not to worry, saying that her father would take care of everything.

One day her mother told her she had a special gift, a bright yellow star that she had sewn onto her jacket.

“We went to get some pastries, and as we are walking down the street I am so proud of this star. Little girls like bright, shiny things,” Preston said. “A man approaches and I think he’s going to say something nice about my star, and he spits in my face. The spit runs down onto the star and I am horrified! How can he not like stars?

“It never occurred to me that it was me he hated.”

The hatred stemmed from her being half-Jewish. Hungarian Nazis sectioned off a small, rundown part of Nagyvarad to which all the Jews were banished, including Preston’s father and everyone on his side of the family.

Her mother was Catholic and was able to stay in her home.

“I was supposed to go, because even with one Jewish grandparent you were supposed to die,” Preston told the Somersworth students. “But my mother hid me in the house. I wasn’t allowed out. She told me ‘Don’t make any noise, don’t keep any toys out. If anyone comes, hide under the bed.’ ”

 

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