On the other side of the door about 71 years ago were German soldiers with orders to retrieve the Jewish family. It would be the last time Bental would see her parents.
“I saw my father on his knees begging,” said Bental, who was 13 at the time. “I didn’t understand the language, but I could make out that the reason he was on his knees begging was for the fact that he wanted us to be left alone.”
Just two years earlier, Bental and her family were made to wear a yellow Star of David armband at all times. Her father moved the family to Marseilles, believing the family would be safe there.
But on the day the soldiers arrived, he and his wife were pried from their children. Bental, along with her younger sister and her grandmother, were spared when her father offered a trunk full of valuables to the officers.
“They took it and they left us behind,” she said.
Her parents were taken to Auschwitz, and Bental was forced to move from village to village to avoid being taken to the concentration camps.
Bental was the guest speaker at the Holocaust Memorial Day service at the Augusta Jewish Community Center on Sunday. The day, also known as Yom HaShoah, is held each year to commemorate the more than 6 million Jews who perished in the Holocaust.
Dozens of people dressed in white flowed into the center Sunday night as volunteers read the names of survivors and victims of the Holocaust.
With six white candles flanking her to the left, Bental read a letter she received from her parents after they arrived at the concentration camp.
“If (the Germans) come back, please beg and don’t let them take you,” Bental read. “… Maybe when it is over, we will have the choice to see you again. Only God knows. Here, it is hell.”
Speaker Marc Gottlieb said the day remains important for people of all faiths so that younger generations may learn what evil humans can do when populations remain passive to such acts. Stories, such as those from Bental, have a particular impact on those who might not remember the atrocities experienced by the Jews, he said.
“We cannot become complacent,” Gottlieb said. “We cannot assume that it will not happen again. More importantly, we cannot think that assimilation can put an end to it. The world has not learned. We must continue to teach it.”