Opening up and talking to strangers about your persona trauma is one of the hardest things a person can do. For Annette Cabelli, a 92-year-old Holocaust survivor, this is what she does regularly–she relives her trauma in order to educate others.
Cabelli, who is a Sephardic Jew from Greece, recently spoke at several events in Europe to share her account of survival. She traveled to Spain during Holocaust remembrance week in January and then at the Asamblea de Madrid, at the Municipal Council of Alcobendas, at the ministry of education, at a local school, and in the nearby city of Avila, according to Tablet. Even more interesting, when she speaks, she tells the story in Ladino.
The 92-year-old told Tablet that she does this, because “everyone needs to know what happened because this must never happen again. And that’s why, until the final moment I can speak, I will.” For Cabelli, her life has been shaped by the Holocaust, as she was deported at 17 from Thessaloniki, Greece to Auschwitz. It was 1943. Apparently, a Nazi officer told her, “See the smoke? That’s your mother.” Absolutely inhuman and chilling.
She went on to open up about the gruesome details in the interview, not holding back, and explained how her job in the concentration camp was to dispose of dead people [graphic content below]:
“The doctors had an opportunity to practice whatever they wanted. They took young women and cut them open without putting them to sleep. They cut off my brother’s [testicles].
A person who came into a hospital never left. Every morning we had to take out the dead. There were women who weren’t dead yet. [They were] dying. But parts of their bodies were eaten by rats.”
While these details are hard to read, they are also necessary, because we must always reminder ourselves of the failures of human history, so we can understand, learn, and grow from these tragedies and not let them repeat. It’s easy, of course, to say collectively that we won’t allow another monstrous event, but subtle sexism, racism, xenophobia, and prejudice contribute to this kind of flawed thinking that can result in terrible events and deaths.
But besides that, listening to Cabelli (and other survivors like her) also teaches us about rebirth–we can undergo terrible traumas and tragedies, but we can also recover, because we are strong and capable of love and acceptance. After all, Cabelli did have a happy ending despite it all–she married another Greek Jew she knew from home, had two daughters, and is now a bubbe. None of this makes what happens to her OK, but it does allow us all to see that the human spirit endures.
Listen to this song Cabelli sang: