SUMMIT, NJ - Hidden and separated from her sisters for years in an effort to survive the Holocaust, Maud Dahme -- one of countless 'hidden children' rescued -- implored fifth- and sixth-grade students at Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child to be respectful of one another.
“It shouldn't’t matter whether you speak with an accent or if you come from a different country, because inside we are all the same, and we really have to care for each other, especially in the world today,” Dahme said while speaking in Oak Knoll’s Grace Hall Chapel.
Dahme described how when she and her sister Rita were 6 and 4 years old, respectively, the Nazis invaded her native Holland and progressively began eliminating certain rights from the Jews living there.
Ultimately, the Germans sent letters to all Jewish families ordering them to appear at a railroad station. While the letter suggested the trains would take the families away from the growing presence of war in their country, Dahme’s parents were suspicious.
Reaching out to Christian neighbors, Dahme’s parents discovered their suspicious were justifiable and found a willing couple in the countryside who would hide the Dahme sisters on their farm.
“Life became very, very difficult,” Dahme said, referring to how she and her sister had to assume new identities and do whatever they could to ensure they weren't’t discovered to be Jews.
“There was a price on our heads,” she said, noting her Jewish kindergarten teacher had initially remained hidden, but like many unfortunate souls had become the victim of the avarice or desperation of others seeking the rewards of money or food.
Over the course of the next three years, until the war’s conclusion, the Dahme sisters and their parents were separately hidden and survived. Unfortunately, much of her extended family did not share her parents’ skepticism and perished.
Dahme, who previously spoke at Oak Knoll in 2012, was also chronicled in the PBS documentary, “The Hidden Child.” The presentation was part of the coeducational elementary school’s anti-bias unit in religion class, in which students hear from speakers like Dahme and study areas such as the Warsaw Ghetto and Le Chambon-Sur-Lignon, a village in France that saved 3,500 Jews during the Holocaust.