Masover is the child of Holocaust survivors Lydia Rychner-Reich and Jack Reich. Both her parents are still living, though her mother now has Alzheimer’s disease and her father has Parkinson’s. And she has lots of cousins – something many people in her situation can’t say.
Masover spoke to Culver Academies students in classes and during a dinner co-hosted by the Global Studies Institute and the Human Rights Council. Her appearance helped to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration and death camps.
Her mother talked about meeting Anne Frank when they were sent to Bergen-Belsen, where Frank later died, Masover said. During her imprisonment, Rychner-Reich wrote and hid poems and notes about her years under Nazi occupation. In 1960, the self-taught English speaker and writer started turning those notes into a book entitled Desperation: Surviving Hitler’s Intention. It was published in 2008.
Masover said her mother and father were the only ones of their respective families to survive the concentration camps. Her mother lost her parents and two sisters. Her father lost his parents and three sisters.
But she has cousins because her mother’s two brothers could sense the troubling times coming in Germany during the mid-1930s. One immigrated to Palestine, which was under British rule at the time, and another immigrated to Argentina. But when the rest of the family tried to join them later, they were never given clearance, Masover said.
I’m fortunate that I have cousins,” she said. “Not many children of Holocaust survivors have cousins.
“I’m fortunate that I have cousins,” she said. “Not many children of Holocaust survivors have cousins.” While she didn’t have any grandparents, she didn’t think that much about it because most of the other children didn’t either, she added.
As Jews, Lydia’s family was first harassed by the “brown shirts,” forced to leave Germany and move to Poland, then finally forced into a slave labor camp in 1940 when Lydia was just 13 years old. Masover said one of the more terrifying incidents during that time was the “Night of Broken Glass,” when synagogues, Jewish homes, and Jewish-owned businesses were plundered and set on fire. The broken glass refers to the shattered windows laying in the streets following that night.
Lydia was separated from her parents when she was sent to the slave labor camp. She never saw her parents again. That led to her keeping her children very close when they were growing up. “I was never allowed to go on sleepovers,” Masover said.
The only reason her parents let go to the University of Illinois was because she was going with a friend. Her parents were thrilled when she decided to transfer to Loyola of Chicago and move back home, she said.
Her parents also hoarded food and other supplies, she said, and it is something she has picked up, too. “I can never have enough toilet paper,” she laughed.
Masover said her family eventually arrived in the United States during the 1950s when President Dwight Eisenhower issued an order allowing all German-born Jews to immigrate. Masover said she is constantly amazed at how well her parents’ generation of Jewish immigrants did after they arrived.
“They were so successful,” she said. “They had no real formal education. They were ripped from their families when they were 13 or 14 years old. They never went to school. They didn’t speak the language. But they succeeded.”