Magda Herzberger: Holocaust Survivor

17 Feb 2015 by Carlie Ranno, 1 Comment »


Magda Herzberger1

Pictured: Magda Herzberger
Photo from:


Magda Herzberger2

Pictured: Magda Herzberger
Photo from:

Heart of gold are the first words that come to mind when I hear the name Magda Herzberger. Magda is one of the strongest, most beautiful woman I have ever met. She is a survivor as well as an inspiration. Magda’s story touched me, and I would love to share her story with you as well.

Magda was born in the city of Cluj, Romania in the year 1926. Up until the age of 18, Magda lived a happy and healthy life with her loving parents; however, when she reached the age of 18, Magda’s world turned upside down. Magda was dragged into the concentration camps and split up from her family.

In the year 1944, Adolf Hitler’s troops had occupied her hometown, and Magda’s world was shattered. Since Magda and her family were of the Jewish faith, they were inhumanely deported in cattle cars to one of the most cruel and heartless German concentration camps, Auschwitz.  Three days straight traveling with no food, water, or opportunity to use a bathroom, an outhouse, or even a bush.

When Magda and her family arrived in Auschwitz, she was split up from her family. The German soldiers grouped the Jews into one of two lines.  Those who were deemed useless, such as the pregnant women, elders, and children under the age of 14, were directed to the left. When the Jewish people were directed to the left, this meant death, either in the form of a gas chamber or some other awful way to die. Those who were directed to the right were not deemed as useless, and were then used as slaves for the “Fatherland”, Germany.  Magda’s father and very dear uncle were directed to the left which meant certain death.  It is difficult to imagine the terror Magda must have felt standing in those lines watching as strangers determined the fate of her family. For me this is unimaginable, and absolutely heart wrenching.  I could never even imagine being a part from my mom, dad, and younger sister if I were in a situation like Magda.

All of us have nightmares in which we are luckily, always able to escape by waking up. Magda Herzberger also had nightmares, only she was never able to wake up.  She was unable to escape from her nightmare which unfortunately and horrifically, became her realty. Magda’s reality, being a Jew under Hitler’s frighteningly powerful and horrendous, emotionless control, was something she could have never imagined.  Magda, along with millions of other Jews, were forced to the horrific/dreaded concentration camps throughout Europe. Amazingly, Magda survived not only Auschwitz-Birkenau, she survived Bremen and Bergen-Belsen (which is where she was sent after the Germans stated she was no longer useful).  She traveled 40 miles on foot to Bergen-Belsen, where she was sentenced to die.  She does not remember the entire journey but felt God had carried her during those moments when her mind could no longer function, yet somehow her feet kept moving.  When she arrived at the camp, the soldiers were pushing and cramming the women into the barracks as the women inside were shouting/screaming/begging that there was no more room.  Magda had to sleep outside and did not realize until the morning that she was sleeping amongst dead corpses and she was very close to death herself.  When she awoke, she was drawn to a tree that had some new buds and she willed herself close to this tree where she wanted to take her last breath.  Magda knew she was on the verge of death and loved nature and wanted to die next to this tree that showed signs of life.  It was not until she had faced the reality that she was going to die that she heard a bunch of commotion.  The next thing she knew, Magda was being rescued by a British soldier.

Magda’s philosophy on life includes the following ideals as depicted at, “Have faith, hope, and love in your heart… Believe in impossible dreams and make them come true… Cherish each moment of life… and NEVER take anything for granted. Her primary goals are to instill love for poetry in the hearts of people through her work, to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive through the presentations of her experiences in the Nazi death camps, and to show the beauty of life through her writings and music.”

I was so inspired and compelled by Magda, that I decided to stay after the lecture because I wanted to give Magda a hug myself.  She has been robbed of so many hugs not only for the time she was at the death camps, but all the years of hugs that were stolen from her father and uncle.  When I asked Magda if I could give her a hug, she put out both arms and gave me a great big bear hug.  I loved giving her a hug and I love her!   It was very special for me to be able to hug Magda because when I hear stories like hers, it makes me wish I could have done something to stop it, make it better, or make it so that it never even happened.  There are not many holocaust survivors.  Our generation will be the last generation to hear these stories told first hand by a holocaust survivor.  It is our job to be sure that we accurately share these first hand accounts with future generations so that history NEVER repeats itself.


Group photo1

Photo by: Christine R

Group photo2

Photo by: Christine R

Magda and Carlie1

Photo by: Christine R

Magda and Carlie2

Pictured: Carlie Ranno and Magda Herzberger
Photo by: Christine R


Why is this so important?  In my opinion, Hitler was a bully that was never put in check.  If someone would have stood up to him early on, perhaps the holocaust could have been prevented.  This is a huge lesson for our generation and one that we must be inspired by and act upon.  Hitler is an extreme example of what can happen when we see something that is wrong and choose to do or say nothing.

Magda just turned 89 years old and is one of the few remaining survivors of the Holocaust. Magda speaks about the Holocaust to ensure that this event is never forgotten. What I mean by never forgotten, is that Magda would like to ensure history does not repeat itself. Magda is a poet, lecturer, composer, and author of more than 8 published books regarding WWII and her thoughts, feelings, and life story during the Holocaust.

I believe that it is indeed true that during any time of trauma, people often hold onto words, phrases, or verses to keep them going. Words can both heal and hurt you and your mind. Filling your mind with positive thoughts and words (similarly like Magda) will lift you up and make you a happier person in general. On the other hand, when you fill your mind with negative thoughts and words, you will be more apt to feeling down in the dumps, or feeling blue. I believe that Magda along with the millions of other Jewish people and families needed a sign of hope during the harsh moments of the Holocaust. During WWII, they needed some positive thoughts and words since there had always been so much negativity occurring all around them. Telling yourself everything will be ok in the end, or thinking about your content/happy place has an extremely high probability of making you feel better and more optimistic for the future. When I had the wonderful opportunity to meet the strong and beautiful 89-year-old Magda Herzberger about a week ago through a charity known as NCL (National Charity League), she said that her positive attitude, faith in God, and determination is what kept her going during such a horrific time. Magda had kept a positive attitude, and filled her mind with positive words, which ultimately led to her survival. Magda did not give up. Magda is an inspiration and an amazing role model.  Below you will find the books including poetry Magda has written to date:

  1. Dreamworld
  2. If You Truly Love Me
  3. Tales of the Magic Forest
  4. Devotional Poetry
  5. The Waltz of the Shadows (1 and 2)
  6. Survival- one of her biggest hits and sells
  7. Transcript of Magda Herzberger Interview, 1980
  8. Midnight Musings
  9. Surviving Hard Times

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The nine books listed above are all written, first hand, from Magda Herzberger.  My personal favorite and one that I think would be most relevant to students at Hillcrest is Surviving Hard Times: A Holocaust Survivor’s Tools for Overcoming Life’s Challenges.  Let’s face it, Magda’s life challenges would certainly trump anything we might be struggling with at the moment.  This book is chock full of helpful tips and strategies to deal with life.

Pictured: Carlie R Photo by: Christine R

Pictured: Carlie R
Photo by: Christine R


Check out the video below to watch Magda, a first hand survivor of the Holocaust, share her inspirational story:


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One Comment

  1. Brad Fregger says:

    My name is Brad Fregger and I have the honor of being Magda Herzberger’s publisher. This is a wonderful article that describes Magda and her experiences extremely well. Than you so much for writing it and for helping to share the message that we must never allow evil to prevail again.

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