They met the woman with the rainbow hair in a tattoo parlor on the Las Vegas strip.
Alyssa Breighner, Kelly Spooner — both of Beaufort — and three of their friends were in Nevada on a girls’ trip in February, and they decided to commemorate the occasion with some ink.
They settled on the image of a small arrow that runs through a symbol shaped like a figure-8 on its side — the sign for infinity.
As they were getting their tattoos, a small woman with multiple facial piercings and closely cropped hair dyed in a patchwork of colors wandered into the parlor.
“I was just looking,” that woman, Diny K. Adkins, said Monday. She sat beside Breighner in the library of Lowcountry Montessori School, having just spoken for more than an hour to the school’s middle- and high-school students about the Holocaust.
Adkins — born Dientje Krant in 1938 to Jewish parents in the Netherlands — was just 4 years old when she went into hiding in her native country after the Germans occupied it during World War II.
In Vegas, she shared her story with Breighner and Spooner — both of whom have children at Lowcountry Montessori — and when they learned Adkins lived in Mount Pleasant, they began laying the groundwork for Monday’s school visit.
It wasn’t Adkins’ first time sharing her experience as a Holocaust survivor.
Her story is part of the College of Charleston’s Jewish Heritage Collection.
And students at a California elementary school wrote a play based on her life; Adkins attended a June 2015 performance, according to the Sacramento Bee.
She’s been visiting schools and delivering her message of tolerance and peace since the late 1980s, she told The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette.
On Monday, Adkins, 78, climbed the four steps to the stage and stood behind a music stand with her notes. Her teal “Peace” T-shirt matched her leggings and cowboy boots. From the back of the auditorium, which held about 100 students, she looked like a piece of topaz.
Topaz jewelry wrapped around her wrists and fingers, and one of the bright stones rested inside a Star of David pendant that hung from her neck. She leaned her tiny frame toward the microphone as she spoke, and several times — usually during tense parts of her speech — she paused and took sips of water.
With her on the stage was a doll, one almost a third of her size. It was a German Schildpad doll, she said, and her grandfather had gotten it for her. She’d named it Aneke Pop, and it was her only company when she went into hiding.
She hid in a total of nine places, she told Lowcountry Montessori’s students. One of them was a closet in the home of a nun. The nun was abusive, Adkins said, and there was no mattress to sleep on.
Students shifted in their seats as she spoke.
She told of her childhood friend, Edith, who was shot and killed by German soldiers. She talked about police sirens in the Netherlands, how she feared them as a child and how they still haunt her today when she travels there to see family. She lost 85 “close relatives” during the war, she said.
She paused and reached for her cup.
“I’m sorry,” she told the students. “In between I have to take a sip of water. I hope you understand.”
She talked more about the closet, how there was a small “potty” in the room. Rats and mice. She would cry because she was hungry. And she was always hungry.
She told the story of a train ride, how she had to step over people who’d died or were hallucinating in the locked railway car. She walked through human waste to get to the back of the car. Some adults had managed to peel the barbwire away from a small hole and were sliding children through it — trying to save them.
Adkins slid through it.
She hit the ground and was unharmed since the train was moving slowly. She was later told the train was bound for Auschwitz.
“Thank heavens I never got there,” she said, taking another sip of water.
As Allied troops liberated Europe, she remembers am American soldier on a tank hoisting her up for a ride. She was almost 7. The man gave her a small piece of a Hersey’s bar.
She reunited with her parents and moved to America when she was 18. She spent 18 months in therapy at one point, dealing with the memories. And she later married and had three children — even though doctors had earlier told her that the abuse she’d suffered during the war would make pregnancy impossible.
And she now has grandchildren.
“I want the world to be colorful,” she said. “I want peace in this world.”
Breighner’s two oldest children, 10 and 8, watched Adkins’ presentation Monday.
“That can’t ever happen again,” 8-year-old Collin said to his mother afterward as they drove from the school’s auditorium to its main campus.
Her daughter, 10-year-old Caroline, hadn’t said anything during the car ride.
The kids knew about the war and a bit about the Holocaust, Breighner said, but this was their first real experience with it. The family would continue to process it, she said.
Breighner had just lost her husband, William, in November to a brain aneurism when she met Adkins at the tattoo parlor.
“If (Adkins) could go through (the Holocaust and the war) and remain happy, positive and not jaded, there’s no reason I can’t do the same,” Breighner said.
The tattoo the girls-night crew chose in Vegas — the arrow through the infinity symbol — means “infinite strength and power moving forward,” Breighner said.
Adkins did not get a tattoo that day, but said she might get one to match Breighner’s.
“It fits me pretty well,” Adkins said of the symbol.