COOPER CITY (CBS4) — At just ten-years old, Harris Ness from Cooper City created a business plan to help keep his family’s memories alive. It’s a lemonade stand where with every cup he fills up, he shares a family story.
“Our grandfather passed away and he was a survivor of the Holocaust, so I wanted to give fifty percent of the money to the Holocaust Museum” the enthusiastic 5th grader explained to CBS4’s Nicole Maristany while preparing his lemonade.
Harris’ great aunt, Lena Russo, is also Holocaust survivor. She agrees with her young nephew and wants to be sure the stories of survivors are continued to be told.
“I can’t forget the things I lost but I have to, I have to go on,” Lena tearfully explained.
Lena shared her pride for her nephew’s charitable spirit and hope for the future, saying, “I’m glad people like my children, like Harris, [are] working to helping the Holocaust Museum, that they should not be forgotten. Never, never, to not only [the] Jewish but all kinds of nations and kinds of people.”
Lena was one of forty five family members from her tiny Greek town taken to concentration camps by the Nazis.
“We heard about the war, but we never believed that they would come up there and take us, and they did,” said Lena.
She boarded a train and began her long journey to Auschwitz and to the unknown.
“They shaved our hair, took all our clothes, we were naked like when you are born. I said to myself, why are they doing this to us? What did we do wrong? Just because we were born Jewish?”
Separated from her family, working long days and sleeping in a barrack with dozens of other young women, Lena said there is not much that separates her fate from those left to perish and credits her voice as what carried her through to liberation.
Lena often sang songs to lift her spirits and to lift the spirits of those around her. Her singing echoed throughout the camp and reached the ear’s of a Polish prisoner of war who made a promise that would keep her alive.
“If you sing one song to us every day we will take care of you, that’s how I survived, by singing,” Lena explained.
For nine years after the war, Lena searched for family in hopes that others had survived but only one did, her brother, Harris’ grandfather.
Today, she takes every opportunity to share her stories, stories that her nephew Harris is proud to share too.
“I think it’s an amazing story to share, two members of my family survived the Holocaust and stayed alive for many years after,” Harris said proudly.
To make a donation through the lemonade stand to the Holocaust Museum and Tolerance Center in honor of Harris Ness, Lena Russo and Ben Elias; Harris’ grandfather, here’s the information:
The Holocaust Museum and Tolerance Center
(In Honor of Harris Ness, In Memory of Ben Elias)
100 Crescent Beach Road
Glen Cove, NY 11542