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Survivor in Our Midst

Survivor in Our Midst

the Eva Hamlet Story

by Karen L. Patton

Eva Hamlet's story of survival spans several generations. Even though her beloved husband,

Eddie, could never talk of his being taken to a concentration camp at the age of 13, Eva has chronicled her story of survival against the Nazis and The Third Reich in the hopes that this horrible tragedy will never be repeated.

Eva was born January 6, 1924, in Magdeburg, Germany to her proud parents, Dr. Julius Riese and Else Riese. She had one sister four years younger. Not much remains in her memory of those childhood years except they were a large family, full of fun and much love for each other. The holocaust left her with only a few distant relatives as the remainder perished in the "Iron Furnace" of Hitler's concentration camps. All of their personal belongings were destroyed.

Eva_Hamlet_age8_1c_ 2004.jpg (57 K<img style='width:20px;height:20px;' src='https://uslegacies.org/images/smiley/cool.svg' alt='Cool' style='vertical-align:middle;' />

Eva's father was a notable attorney specializing in criminal law. He had served his country during WWI earning the Iron Cross and spending years in a Siberian prison. Her mother led the well-to-do family in many social events throughout the community. Due to Eva's sister, Vera, having asthma, her mother spent a great deal of time taking her to sanatoriums for her health. The community where Eva and her family lived was also the home of her many aunts, uncles, and cousins from both sides of the family.

Those who were not blessed with their own children would look forward to Eva's visits to their homes where they shared their love and attention on her. Vera had been killed by a speeding car when Eva was 12 years old. Of this very large family only two uncles and their families, who had fled Germany, one to Israel and the other to America, survived the holocaust. It is through their memories and a couple of saved pictures that Eva recalls the happy times of her childhood. Her story tells of being left an orphan with no home, no country and on her own at the age of 15.

It was in 1938 that Eva's father told her she could no longer go to school. All Jews had been banned from any educational institutions. They tried to hire a private tutor who came after dark as not to be seen entering a Jewish home. This lasted a short time. "How could a 14 year old kid understand being barred from school and the playground? School friends shunned me; my whole world was coming apart. Slowly, the awful truth about impending doom was penetrating my mind," Eva says.

Eva fled Germany during the Kindertransport in 1939 to evade Hitler and the Holocaust that erased her large family, her childhood history and love for a country and its people. Eva's parents sent her alone on a kindertransport from Magdeburg, Germany to Southport, England.

The unbelievable picture of a child wearing a tag "Southport England" watching her sobbing parents as the train leaves the station will forever be branded in her mind. The kindertransport train, initiated by the British Government, literally saved the lives of 10,000 children from the horrors and mass extinction that occurred in the various concentration camps of WWII.

The sole cause of these unspeakable crimes was that she was born a Jew in 1924 in Germany. She never saw her parents again after they waved goodbye on the train station platform. They had made the supreme sacrifice of giving their child a chance to survive in a world torn by war. Eva later learned her parents were murdered in Auschwitz between 1942 and 1943.
Eva_Hamlet_1938_1c_ 2004.jpg (61 K<img style='width:20px;height:20px;' src='https://uslegacies.org/images/smiley/cool.svg' alt='Cool' style='vertical-align:middle;' />
[b][i]1938 photograph of Eva during the last days with her parents.
Through her own determination and will to survive, Eva worked 12 hour days, seven days a week at a factory in England. Eva cared for an elderly aunt, met her beloved husband, Eddie, and immigrated to the United States with 3-yr old Ruth in tow. Even having to take separate transportation to America, due to imminent expirations of their visas, Eva and Ruth living through a crash landing and political red tape did not deter Eva from her goals.

In 1952 Eva Hamlet became a US Citizen. Eva says "the phrase `I am an American citizen' will forever remain the most important and cherished sentence."

Eva's career spanned being a clerk at Woolworth's (below their first apartment aka a room) to a senior merchandise buyer for a large mail order house in New York, to a world traveler and to a movie star as she participated in the filming of the documentary "Our First Year."

The 1985 film covered her trip to England and the years spent there during the war. Jobs were scarce in 1947, especially for foreigners who had little knowledge of America. Eddie became a master mechanic as the English and German cars began arriving every day. Both Eva and Eddie walked to work as neither could afford a bike or bus fare.

"We realized that America was tough, but fair. There was prejudice, but that situation could be overcome. Hard work, yes, but the rewards were overwhelming. It was all right to complain, no one really listened too closely, and we grew accustomed to solving our own problems."

A one-bedroom apartment with a shared bathroom seemed like a mansion after living in another small room found by distant relatives. From Germany to England to New Jersey to Florida and around the world, through sadness, love, birth and death, Eva never lost her faith—"…foremost duty as a Jew is survival in order to carry on our traditions and keep in touch with our past…"

As time went on Eva, Eddie and Ruth moved to New Jersey, Ruth grew up and their careers prospered. The ever-resilient Eddie didn't give credence to heart problems until the surgery left him needing round the clock care. With her determined spirit for survival, Eva helped Eddie recover until they decided retirement and a move to Florida was in their best interests.

This move to the land of beaches and palms trees became almost a year of mental and physical torment as Eva watched over and provided care for Eddie as his health continued to fail. On her 67th birthday, she and Eddie parted for the last time.

After retirement and the loss of her dear Eddie, Eva once again found herself alone, in a strange city without any direction and an extremely heavy heart. After much soul-searching to work through this time of severe loneliness, Eva took up golf, went to college, and began volunteering.

She knew this was the way to achieve a new life for herself. "I wanted to be more selfless, more giving, more grateful and more compassionate to my fellow inhabitants on planet Earth." Eva volunteered for many years in Florida, Michigan and Indianapolis. She is now a volunteer at Conner Prairie, an 1836 pioneer settlement and museum in Fishers, Indiana.

Eva has traveled back to Germany for the last time. Her love of country lies with America. Too much tragic history, loss and indescribable sadness lies within Germany's borders for reconciliation. Eva's life now centers around her daughter, Ruth, son-in-law, Dick, and her wonderful grandchildren Marc, Joel and Jennifer along with her great-grandchildren Jack, Sam and Max.

Eva bubbles with enthusiasm for life as she continues to have a full calendar. Eva speaks to students of all ages in the Indianapolis area. She shares her book "Against All Odds" with groups throughout the community and around the world. She serves as the Secretary/Treasurer of the Survivors of Kindertransport.

These survivors, their children and grandchildren meet once a year. "We don't want this to die, we have lost enough. If we can stop the next massacre we have accomplished something," Eva explains. Her future goals are to continue being of service to the Indianapolis Children's Museum and Conner Prairie. She hopes to establish a place for a permanent exhibit of her mementos and stories of the Kindertransport.
Eva_Hamlet_small1b_ 2004.jpg (9 K<img style='width:20px;height:20px;' src='https://uslegacies.org/images/smiley/cool.svg' alt='Cool' style='vertical-align:middle;' />
[b][i]Photograph of Eva, taken in 2004[/i][/b]


the Eva Hamlet Story
by Karen L. Patton

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RAW October 18 2021 537 0 comments 0 out of 0 ratings


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