California LDS teen wins Holocaust poetry contest

By Barbara Openshaw

For Mormon Times

Published: Saturday, April 2 2011 7:30 a.m. MDT

Natalie Larson, a 13-year-old member of the LDS Church from Orange County, Calif., recently won a national middle school poetry-writing content. The 12th annual Holocaust Art and Writing contest was sponsored by Chapman University and the 1939 Club, an organization of Holocaust survivors and descendants. For her efforts, Larson received a $500 prize and an upcoming summer trip to Washington, D.C.

Larson wrote a poem about Zelda Gordon, a Holocaust survivor born in Poland who now resides in Southern California. Gordon survived six death and concentration camps. Larson's poem describes Gordon’s courage in sneaking out after curfew to find bread for her friends in the ghetto, at considerable risk to herself.

The award was announced on March 4 during a ceremony at Chapman University in Orange, Calif. Following the ceremony, Larson had the opportunity to meet Zelda Gordon.

“It was amazing to meet a Holocaust survivor,” Larson said. “She is someone I can look up to because of what she went through.”

The Holocaust Art and Writing contest gives prizes in three categories — poetry, prose and art — to both middle school and high school students. Students from 68 middle schools and 43 high schools, primarily in California, entered the contest. They based their writing or art on the video testimonies of Holocaust survivors. The contest was judged by a panel of educators, philanthropists and artists. About 50 Holocaust survivors attended the awards ceremony.

Natalie Larson attends the eighth grade at Tuffree Middle School in Placentia, Calif. She is the daughter of Blake and Melissa Larson and is an active member of the Placentia Second Ward, Placentia California Stake.

Barbara Openshaw is on the Placentia California Stake Public Affairs Committee.

***

"Would I Have Done What You Did?"
by Natalie Larson
Survivor Testimony: Zelda Gordon

Night lying like a blanket on the ghetto,

silence pressing a pillow over the ears.

A bakery stands in the marketplace,

it is past curfew and the streets are deserted.

Not a light to be seen in a single window,

the darkness presses down on the ghetto.

Somebody sneaks out of a house,

Zelda Gordon runs silently up the darkened street.

One thought is lodged firmly in her mind:

Find food for my friends.

Would I have been so selfless?

A pair of Germans march into the market, prepared to fire upon anyone out at this hour.

Zelda moves silently towards her brother’s bakery, knowingly risking her life for her friends.

Would I have had the courage to do this?

A German’s flashlight suddenly beams on her,

shots shatter the muffled silence!

Zelda ducks, runs, stumbles unseen into her brother’s bakery.

She is safe, unhurt, just frightened.

What would I do in her shoes?

Zelda, did you know you had the courage

to risk your life for your friends?

Or did your act of bravery surprise even you?

What was the source of your courage?

Would you do the same if time were to run back to that date?

I strive to help my friends, my family, my religion, my country,

But one question haunts me so-

would I be able to take that risk? Would I be able to find the courage

to save who I love, and leave a memory,

a memory to inspire all.

 

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