Mommy, What's that Number on Your Arm?
by Gloria Hollander Lyon

"At age fourteen, as the reality of the Holocaust engulfed my existence, I lost my name and identity and became merely a number — a number that was tattooed on my arm and has stayed with me for all of my life."

Young Zora, whose Hebrew name is Hannah, grows up in a happy farming family in the Czechoslovakian town of Velky Berehi. Then in 1938, life changes ominously when the Hungarians take over, allying themselves with Hitler’s Third Reich. Zora is forced to take the Hungarian name of Hajnal and becomes witness to the gradual dehumanization of the Jews. Living in fear, with strange edicts requiring yellow Jewish stars and disquieting rumors of the slaughter of whole Jewish communities, Zora and her family are transported to the infamous Auschwitz, one of several “hellholes” she encounters. No longer a person but a number – A-6374 – she experiences a frightening reality under the control of sadistic Nazi guards, who submit her to slave labor, cruelty and violence amid the “putrid smell” of burning flesh lingering in the air. Her family is split up and lost, but somehow she summons the will to survive. Zora’s life is saved several times in rare moments of humanity, and she escapes these horrors. Facing new obstacles after the war, she embarks on a journey to the United States and, taking a new name, becomes a public witness to the Holocaust.

As her son, Jonathan, recalls her mother’s words, “If you have ever been to Auschwitz, you can never completely leave it,” we too are reminded of this as we read Gloria’s memoir. The remembrance of “bloody Europe” is both a testament and a living history that enables her to process and heal psychological wounds while educating others. Her narrative is altogether important for the new generations encountering the history of the Holocaust for the first time. At once touching, vivid and remarkable, Gloria’s words and her journey will move you and change you, and by its end leave you haunted for years to come.

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