Holocaust Survivor Janet Applefield Speaks at MHS

Recently Malden High School was fortunate enough to hear the story of Holocaust survivor, Janet Applefield. History teacher Marsha Healy has been studying the Holocaust for over thirty years and came across Applefield “through [her] association with Salem State University.” Healy explained that she met Applefield during one of the Holocaust Museum’s annual Holocaust Commemoration Day, where Applefield was a speaker at the event.

This was Healy’s fourth time hearing Applefeild’s story, and she feels that she has “gotten to know [Applefield’s] story and the connections just continue to grow deeper and deeper.” Applefield was only four years old when the Holocaust was in its early stages before it transformed into what is widely considered the worst genocide in history. Nearly six million European Jews were killed under Nazi control. Applefield explained that she was not very sure of what was happening, but she was aware that it was a difficult time.

Applefield expressed that she looked like the “typical Aryan child,” due to her blonde hair, which was not considered a feature of a typical Jewish person. She even explained that when encountered by a German officer while having to be away from the rest of her family, she wasn’t recognized by him as Jewish because of her convincing Aryan appearance.

Janey Applefield speaking to MHS students in 2015.
Janey Applefield speaking to MHS students in 2015.

MHS history teacher Greg Hurley stated that “[he] is still amazed by [Applefield’s] story,” even though he has now heard it multiple times. Referring to Applefield’s strength through her journey and telling her story to so many people over the years, he also expressed that “everytime [he] hear[s] her speak it’s amazing and [he is] just more impressed by the type of person she has become.”

Applefield remembers many of her hardships during this time. She recalled many events throughout the presentation that involved her having to constantly move around, and always having to lie about her identity in order to save her life during encounters with German officers. Applefield moved to many different locations with relatives, a family friend named Maria, and to an orphanage.

She and her father had moved to New Jersey once they realized their hometown in Poland was no longer a safe place for them to stay. Applefield had just recently learned how her mother had died, after all these years, on a train with other Jewish prisoners. She has shared hers and her family’s story with audiences in both America and in her home country of Poland.

Hurley explained that the students and faculty hearing a Holocaust survivor speak is an important opportunity because “there aren’t many survivors left. People need to know what happened from the people who experienced it because those of us who didn’t experience it don’t really have a sense of what it was like.”

Applefield’s message to the young adults in the Jenkins Auditorium, as she clearly stated, was to stand up against prejudice and violence. She is currently in the process of writing a memoir and a documentary film to continue to share her story with the public. You can find more information at http://www.janetapplefield.com about Applefeild and her story.

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