International Holocaust Remembrance Day is declared to be on January 27 of each year. It is a day to honor victims of the Holocaust and to spread awareness so that history does not repeat itself. The 2023 theme, “Home and Belonging,” highlights the needs of victims of anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial, and prejudice. In light of this day, one of the residents of Stein Assisted Living has shared her inspirational story.
Inga Markowitz was born in Berlin, Germany, and faced horrific anti-Semitism at the age of ten years old. She was the only child of her parents and endured unimaginable troubles during the years Adolf Hitler ruled over Germany.
During his years in power, Hitler convinced many people in Germany to believe that Jewish people were the root of Germany’s downfall and that they were not even human. Inga Markowitz recalls that her parents knew that trouble was to come and that they had to put their daughter’s life before their own. They created a plan to send little Inga to foster parents in England with a slim chance that they would ever see her again. This broke Inga’s parents’ hearts, for how could they ever bear to send their only child across the world alone? They initially believed this to be the best plan because Inga deserved the chance at life, even over their own. Then, on November 9, 1938, the lives of the Markowitz’s forever shifted. On Kristallnacht, also known as the “Night of Broken Glass,” Inga recalls being in “a horrible nightmare situation” that still lives with her daily. Inga Markowitz’s grandfather’s glazier shop in Hamburg was destroyed on Kristallnacht, along with all their family’s belongings and livelihoods. This act of anti-Semitism carried out by the Nazis destroyed not only Jewish stores but synagogues, holy scrolls, and homes, including Inga Markowitz’s own house.
After this, Inga’s parents and grandparents realized that they could not send Inga to England, and at the last minute, they decided to escape Germany before it was too late. Her grandparents formulated a plan to head to Cuba in 1939. Inga and her family boarded the “Orinoco” passenger ship that sailed out of Hamburg with thousands of other Jewish refugees hoping to escape Nazi Germany. But Inga’s family’s troubles continued even beyond the three-week boat ride. Inga developed pneumonia, and with insufficient medical care, she almost did not make it. Inga’s strength and bravery through these times are admirable, and she states, “I was eleven going on eighteen.” After the long journey, her family, fortunately, made it out alive and stayed in Cuba for about a year and a half. Her parents and her grandparents were the only members of her family who got out of Germany, and she reminisced about her father’s family, who died in the gas chambers of Auschwitz. Her entire family line was wiped out by the concentration camps in Germany, which broke Inga’s heart.
To get to the United States, Jewish refugees needed an affidavit or sponsorship to gain entry. This was challenging for most, and Inga and her family were fortunate once again. Interestingly, a number of Hollywood actors and filmmakers got involved in helping refugees. Ginger Rogers, a famous actress in the 1940s, provided sponsorship for Inga and her family, allowing them to come to the United States and live safely in New York. Growing up in the United States, Inga was able to lead a great life.
Inga Markowitz, who now resides at Stein Assisted Living, is a strong, kind, independent, and remarkable woman. Her story is important to share to reinforce that the Holocaust was a historical tragedy that cannot be forgotten. Inga is proof that the Holocaust happened only a generation or two ago. Survivors like Inga help us to understand the impact of these tragic events and remind us that empathy is the connection to humanity. We hope that in sharing stories such as Inga’s, this type of history will never repeat itself.