Holocaust survivor tells story through childhood art - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Holocaust survivor tells story through childhood art

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

Holocaust survivor Nelly Toll scrolls through a PowerPoint with her 64 childhood paintings, each a memory of her time in hiding.

"I actually juxtaposed present filled with dangerous times with the past or my fantasies," says Toll, "You see she's taking the baby and escaping. Perhaps I thought of me escaping with my mother."

Toll was the honorary speaker at the Memphis Jewish Federation's 51st annual Yom Hashoah Day of Remembrance commemoration.

Toll uses her art instead of her words to share her story and message so another six million won't die needlessly.

"I tell the students don't bully each other, don't start hating each other. Racism leads to terrible catastrophes," she says.

While the dangers of the Holocaust were going on outside of her safe house, inside the walls there was still danger for Toll. She says the husband of the family they stayed with was abusive and even hit her once. It became overwhelming.

"I was a kid, I wanted to go out, I was tired of being in, we'd been there for two years. She asked the lady if she could provide a watercolor box," says Toll.

That watercolor box provided her escape. Toll says, "Art was able to take me to another world; a world out of reality, a world that had no tears, no sadness and brought happiness in my life. I'd imagine going to kindergarten and being with other children and that kind of imagination kept me going until we were liberated."

Sunday's event co-chair Dorothy Goldwin also shared her family's story of Holocaust survival: Both her mother and father are survivors.

"She lived in a ghetto, she made ammunition, she had a grave dug for her at one point but luckily the German soldier was a good person and he let her go," says Goldwin, "My father was a survivor of the Dachau concentration camp. He weighed 90 pounds when the war was over."

Like Toll, Goldwin uses her family's story to light a lesson for future generations.

"Every time I hear her it's hard for me," says Goldwin, "But we both go to help other children learn that if you don't speak up for yourself and you follow a crowd just because you think ‘it's cool' what can happen."

Six women survivors from Tennessee were chosen at the remembrance event to light six candles: One candle for each of the six million Jews killed during the Holocaust. On the specially-made candleholder is the imprint of a coin to symbolize the total ten million people whose lives were lost in the tragedy.

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