"Donald Trump will burn himself out. He's an impulsive, egotistical narcissist. Even Hitler knew to come on slowly," Sella says. Credit: Sunshine Tucker

is a first-person account from off the beaten track, as told to Anne Ford. This week’s Chicagoan is Adina P. Sella, 80, child of the Holocaust.

“My father had been a great denier of Hitler’s intentions. He was sure that the people who gave us Goethe and Schiller would never allow a crazy person to prevail. But when I was three, Hitler rounded up all the male Jews with Polish origins, including my father. My mother took my brother and I, and we marched into the headquarters of the Gestapo. I remember the Nazis’ boots, because I was about that level, you know?

“This young officer asked us, ‘Was willst du?’ [‘What do you want?’] in a very impolite way. And she said, ‘Mein Mann.’ [‘My husband.’] My mother was a beautiful woman. He looked at her, and he said, “Who’s your husband?” He came back with my father’s passport, and he said, “You have 48 hours to secure an exit visa for him, and we’ll let him go.”

“My mother went to the Italian consulate and secured an exit visa for my father. You know what could have happened. The Gestapo could have taken that visa and told my mother to fly a kite. But the officer let my father go, and he left for Italy. After he was there, some Italians helped him get visas for the rest of us, and we left to join him. At the border, the Nazis tore my doll with a bayonet, to look for the famous Jewish jewels that we were supposed to have.

“We ended up in a small village, where nobody knew we were Jewish except the people who housed us. One day we got the message that we had to flee because somebody had seen German troops nearby. We walked and walked and walked.

“All of a sudden, like a frog, a young man dressed in khaki jumped out at us and told us to get flat on our stomachs. He was a British soldier. We had been walking between a German trench and a British trench, walking and talking as if we were out on a Sunday afternoon. We jumped into the British trench, and they gave us white bread and squares of chocolate. In that minute, the menace was off us.

“Now, my Holocaust story is comparatively benign. I didn’t see killings and hangings. But what I learned in the first eight years of my life were behaviors that made it safe for me to survive. I had to lie, I had to cheat, I had to steal, I had to hide. And then those things became maladaptive. So I developed a pseudo-personality. On the outside, I was popular, and on the inside, I didn’t let anybody near me because I was so empty and afraid. Eventually, I went to therapy for 18 years, from when my daughter was born until she finished high school. It took me time to realize that the Holocaust caused me post-traumatic stress, starting with my birth.

“As a Jew, you have to be vigilant. I love America, and I am absolutely lucky to be here. But the Holocaust happened and can happen and will happen again. And the only way we will not have stories like mine and worse is if we keep Israel strong, to have a country that can defend us. Now, is that a popular thing to say? I don’t know.

“I’m not afraid of Donald Trump. Donald Trump will burn himself out. He’s an impulsive, egotistical narcissist. Even Hitler knew to come on slowly. He had a very solid foundation before he started to be such a megalomaniac. Trump is one already.”