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Woman who experienced Nazi Germany worries about hate in America today

Posted at 10:36 PM, Nov 08, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-08 23:36:51-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Esther Bergh remembers the hateful language and taunting she and her Jewish family endured growing up in Nazi Germany.

Growing up in the country led to a “normal life” at first, until Hitler came to power.

“In 1933, you could already feel the beginning of fascism and of Nazism,” Bergh said. “I remember going to school being a hardship because we were always afraid of other children who used to throw stones at us. We couldn’t go to parks anymore, we couldn’t go to movies anymore. We knew as children that something was very wrong.”

Facing increasing hate and torment, Bergh’s mother sent her three children to stay with other Jewish families in England.

After saying goodbye to her at a train station, Bergh would never see her mother again.

“My mother and my grandmother could not get out. They were sent to extermination camps,” she said. “For a while, I had terrible nightmares then they stopped. Now that I’m older, they come back.”

On the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht, a night in 1938 when Nazis terrorized Jews in Austria and Germany, Bergh and three other Holocaust survivors told their stories during a special event at Congregation Ohev Sholom in Prairie Village.

Many attended, including Ben Heisler, who said it was important to hear their memories.

“You have to be here. You have to hear these firsthand,” he said. “You have to be able to understand it so that you can pass those messages on to future generations.”

The event came nearly two weeks after the tragic mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, which killed 11 people and injured six others.

After seeing violence, racist groups, and hate crimes emerge even more in recent years, Bergh told 41 Action News that she worried about the future.

“All this brings up memories,” she said. “I’m afraid for my grandchildren. What kind of a future is there going to be?”

Moving forward, Bergh said it was important for people to come together and unite against hate.

“This is how it all started in Germany. Fascism started as a small group of people,” she said. “Somebody has to speak up. Somebody whose in charge needs to speak up. It is a perfect society that accepts everybody for what they are.”