SPOKANE, Wash. – Carla Peperzak was a Jewish resistance fighter during the Holocaust at just 16 years old. Today, she helps organize the Holocaust Memorial Service at Spokane’s Temple Beth Shalom.
Sunday’s ceremony was lined with music, a ceremonial candle lighting and deep thought. Peperzak came to Spokane in 2004. At that time, there were five Holocaust survivors. Today she is one of two.
She knows someday no survivors will remain, but she is confident the younger generations will continue to remember it. Peperzak said it’s important that they do so that something like it never happens again.
Peperzak’s father had a lawyer alter her personal identification so no one knew she was Jewish. But soon she started to help people on her own, by making fake identifications for them to conceal their Jewish identities. She estimates she helped about 20 people into hiding, securing them what food and medicine she could.
She even managed to get a nurse’s uniform to rescue a young Jewish boy from capture.
“To me it was the very natural thing to do, even though it wasn’t easy,” Peperzak said. “I never discussed it with my parents. I never talked to them about it. Supposedly they never knew what I was doing, but I’m sure they knew.”
Today Peperzak is one of nine members of a committee that judges the Eva Lassman Creative Writing Contest. A total of 99 local high school and middle school students wrote essays this year. Peperzak reads every one of them. This year’s winners were Shaw Middle School’s Simon Nguyen and North Central High School’s Elizabeth Staal
“I never, and I still don’t understand, how you can hate that much,” Peperzak said. “When I talk to the youngsters in school I end it all by asking them, ‘if you are upset or angry with yourself, or with your friends or whatever, to write it down…if you write down your problems, you take it out on the paper and not somebody else.”