2009-05-06 / Federation

Ellen Litman: Lions Gate resident survived Holocaust


ELLEN LITMAN ELLEN LITMAN Rekindling the past can often paint memories we'd prefer to forget. But some people know that sharing their painful memories can influence youth and safeguard the future. Ellen Litman is one such person. Meeting her, most people assume that this 83- year-old has always lived a life of happiness and success. However, Ellen is one of thousands of Holocaust survivors from Germany.

She vividly recalls her dreadful childhood memories when her home and father's factory business were taken away by the Nazi's. She remembers when all of the synagogues were destroyed, Jews were discriminated against and schools forced students to say "heil Hitler."

Two days before Ellen's family was prepared to leave Germany for the U.S., Nazi soldiers came knocking at their door giving them a half hour to pack because they were being sent to a concentration camp. There they were given one meal a day and beds of straw—if they were lucky. Ellen remembers how every night one mother was elected to "teach" the girls. Some mothers recited poetry, while others read anything so that they wouldn't stop learning.

Miraculously, Ellen was able to escape by jumping a barbed wire fence, along with her brother and father who all hid in a farmer's barn. Sadly, Ellen's mother was sent to Auschwitz. Fighting hard for several days to make it to Switzerland, Ellen's family was fortunate to cross the Alps during the night while hiding in the mountains during the day. They lived on bread and milk left by shepherds.

More of Ellen's experiences have been recorded by Director Steven Spielberg in a documentary shown at the Holocaust museums in Washington D.C. and Israel. Through a grant provided by the Jewish Community Foundation, Inc. Ellen's testimonial

was also recorded for educational purposes by the Jewish Community Relations Council. "The reason I talk is for the people in the camps, who didn't make it out. I speak for them," says Ellen.

She eagerly shares her story with hundreds of middle and high school students who visit the JCRCs' Goodwin Holocaust Museum on the Weinberg Jewish Community Campus. "The museum is the best part so the students can see what they have heard."

Thanks to the support of JCRC and its Goodwin Holocaust Education Center, Ellen is able to educate the youth about the Holocaust to try and assure that it will never happen again.

Ellen and her husband, formerly of Long Island, now live at Lions Gate, the Federation-affiliated continuing care retirement community in Voorhees. Ellen describes her life as being on a "cruise ship" with numerous opportunities such as entertainment, lectures and Shabbat meals. The Adath-Emanuel members have two children and four grandchildren.

Ellen will never stop teaching young people. "Being educated is most important," she says. "You can't stand still with learning. There is always more to learn!" .

Return to top