Behind the eyes of this smiling grandmother is a horror story ripped from the pages of history.
"In my case it was just surviving every single day," said Betty Lauer of White River Junction.
Lauer is a Holocaust survivor who shared her experiences at Essex High School Tuesday.
At 12, Nazis forced Lauer, her mother and sister to leave Germany for a Jewish ghetto in Poland. Later, they managed to get out of the ghetto. And as many Jews were sent to their deaths in camps across Europe, Lauer and her mom spent World War II dodging a similar fate, disguised as Polish Catholics and hoping not to get caught.
"Fear was just the overwhelming emotion," Lauer said. "I don't know what went through my head, to make it through the night, that nobody would knock on our door."
Luckily, Lauer's father made it to America years earlier, but of her loved ones left behind, few survived, including her sister who was discovered by the Nazis.
"Of my family, nobody except my mother and I, and I had a large family," Lauer said.
"I think actually hearing her speak made it more emotional and you could, I guess, get more of a feel for what it was like instead of reading a book from someone," said Morgan Bullock, an Essex High School student.
The real life history lesson captured this crowd of students, who are in the middle of studying the Holocaust.
"I think the most powerful part was how she talked about coming to America and how much that meant to her and especially meeting her husband there and how he just helped her just be more confidant and just really changed her," said Nate Ballif, a student.
What hasn't changed is Lauer's upbeat attitude and unique ability to put her own life in perspective.
"First of all, I am just happy to be alive" she said, "and that's a good reason to smile."
Something she's been able to do for close to 90 years, despite a past that would give many reasons to do otherwise.
Lauer has written a book about her experiences during the Holocaust. It's called "Hiding in Plain Sight."
Tuesday, March 11 2014 5:59 PM EDT2014-03-11 21:59:43 GMT
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