Mindu Hornick, 13, peered through a crack in the door of her stopped cattle car and read a name: Auschwitz.
“I spelt it out for my mother,” Hornick recalled recently. “She says, ‘I don't know where it is, I've never heard of the place.’ And then suddenly all this clatter of the doors opening, and when the doors opened I mean there was, just, all hell let loose.”
They had traveled for days in the dark, 70 women and children packed shoulder to shoulder in a cattle car, with little food and a single sanitation bucket to share. Now they saw piles of rotting bodies, barking dogs, Nazis shouting in German, thick gray ash clotting the air. An official scrambled into their car.
“I think that a kapo must have known that this train of mothers and children—that were no use to them for work—would end up in the gas chambers,” said Hornick. “And that's why he must have looked in that coach and thought to himself, ‘well perhaps I'll try and save a couple.’”
He advised Hornick’s mother to let her two older girls go ahead, while she stayed behind with her younger two sons. You’ll see them soon, he assured her in Yiddish. He told Mindu and her sister to lie about their age and skills. “You are a seamstress,” he told them.
“You better do as this man says,” her mother said. “We looked back and we saw our mother with her spotted scarf, and we waved to her and we went ahead,” Mindu said.
She never saw her mother or little brothers again.
Listen to HISTORY This Week Podcast: January 27, 1945:"Surviving Auschwitz"
Auschwitz and the ‘Final Solution’
The Nazis established Auschwitz in 1940 in the Polish suburbs of Oswiecim, building a complex of camps that became central to Hitler’s pursuit of a “Final Solution to the Jewish question.” Nazis murdered between 1.1 million and 1.5 million people at Auschwitz, including more than one million Jews, but also Roma, homosexuals, political dissidents and more.
As prisoners arrived, young children, the elderly and infirm were separated and immediately sent to take “showers,” which pumped deadly Zyklon-B poison gas into the chambers. Daily mass executions, starvation, disease and torture transformed Auschwitz into one of the most lethal and terrifying concentration camps and extermination centers of World War II.
Children, especially twins, could be selected at any time for barbaric medical experiments conducted without anesthesia by Nazi Josef Mengele. These included injecting serum directly into children’s eyeballs to study eye color and injecting chloroform into the hearts of twins to determine if the siblings would die at the same time and in the same way.
In January 1945, Soviet soldiers liberated the camp to find 7,600 emaciated prisoners left behind, heaps of corpses and seven tons of human hair that had been shaved off the prisoners.
Estimates suggest that Nazis murdered 85% of the people sent to Auschwitz. Here are the stories of three who survived. [Comments have been edited for clarity.]
READ MORE: Horrors of Auschwitz: The Numbers Behind WWII's Deadliest Concentration Camp
Before the war
Edith Eger, born September 29, 1927
The town that I grew up in was part of Czechoslovakia until 1938, when it became part of Hungary. I spent a lot of time with my mom because my father played billiards, and so she took me to the opera and she introduced me to Gone with the Wind. I was told at a very young age that I am a very talented gymnast.
Mindu Hornick, born May 4, 1929
I grew up in this shtetl in the Carpathian Mountains. Life was good. We had a lovely home and an orchard and we had nice relations with our neighbors and our school friends, which were not always Jewish.
Billy Harvey, born May 20, 1924
My city was called Berehove, population was approximately 26,000. In the springtime I used to work in a vineyard, cultivate the growth of the grapes, in the fall we used to harvest the grapes. The whole city was like Napa Valley. [My father was injured in World War I] so my mother became the sole supporter of the family. She was a dressmaker, but what I know about her talent today, she was more like a dress designer. There was no indoor plumbing, there was no electricity, my mother had to go every day to the farmers’ market, purchase the food, prepare the food for six children, also make a living.
Watch the documentary Liberators: Why We Fought on HISTORY Vault
The rise of anti-Semitism
I wanted to be a gymnast and be competing in the Olympics. I was told by my trainer that ‘I have to train someone else who is not Jewish,’ and that was to me the biggest shock of my life because I spent at least five hours a day training, training, training. And then I said to my trainer, ‘I'm not Jewish.’ I denied it, and that's when I realized that when you had a child, you had to go to the City Hall and register the child and put the religion next to it.
[Once we were forced to wear Jewish stars] that was terrible, suddenly we were singled out. We were different to school friends, we were different to our neighbors. My father was taken away from us. His businesses were confiscated, and honestly I don't know how our mother fed us.
I graduated age of 18 from a gymnasium [an advanced secondary school]. Unfortunately my graduation present became Birkenau Auschwitz.
Transport to Auschwitz
We were suddenly told to pack our luggage and be ready to come to the station. We were taken to a ghetto first.
We were [in the ghetto] for six weeks under terrible sanitation conditions. We were freezing, we had very little food to eat. One day the train arrived...they pushed into one cattle car as many people they possibly can—so that we were crushed like sardines. There [were] no windows on the cattle car. When the sliding doors slammed closed on us, the only light came through the wooden cracks.
I begged my father to look presentable, to look younger. We were all shmooshed up, you know, very small, little place, in the cattle car, on the floor, sitting down, and I am crawling to him and asking him to shave. He didn’t listen to me. My mom hugged me and said, ‘We don't know where we're going, we don't know what's going to happen, just remember no one can take away from you what you put here in your own mind.’
It was not a long way from where we were to Auschwitz, but because of railway lines being bombed, [the train] was shunted forward and back...and suddenly we arrived at the place.
We were pushed through to the main gate, and once we entered there we thought we'd entered hell. There were bodies everywhere, and there were these watch towers with machine guns pointing at us...this terrible grey ash falling around us. There were the barking dogs, viciously walking around, there were loudspeakers always and these SS men walking around, with shiny boots and guns on their back. I mean, we were just frightened out of our wits.
When we first glanced out, it looked like a twilight zone, big chimneys going to the sky, smoke was going all over. We didn't know where the smoke was coming from, but we found out soon enough—the smoke was coming from the crematorium. They were burning—burning between 12,000 and 13,000 people a day.
Men and women were immediately separated. I never saw my father again. After the war, I met someone who told me that he saw my father going to the gas chamber.
Who they wanted to stay alive, go to the right; who was condemned to die, go to the left. Most of the children were bitterly crying, didn't want to be separated from their mother, so the young mothers went to the left, to the gas chamber.
We stood at the end of the line, with my mum in the middle, Magda [my sister] and I. And [Doctor Josef Mengele] asked, ‘Is this your mother or is this your sister?’ And I did not forgive myself [for] saying, ‘That's my mother.’ So Doctor Mengele points my mother to go this way, and my sister and I the other. I followed my mum, and...the very person who annihilates my family grabs me, and there is an eye contact, and tells me, ‘You're gonna see your mother very soon, she's just gonna take a shower.’
We were stripped from every inch of human dignity. They made us strip completely naked, shaved our hair, gave us a prisoner’s suit to wear.
They marched us into shower rooms to be deloused. Our heads shaven and then we were going in to be tattooed with a number and, from then on, we had no name, that was it. For young girls like ourselves, possibly even our mother [hadn't seen] us undressed. We had to sit there naked for men shaving our heads.
Scroll to Continue
We passed by where the [women were]...my mother, my aunt, my cousins and their children all were naked as we glanced in, and they looked like they were in a trance. [The Nazis] must have used a gas, a small amount, because they didn't look normal. We weren't allowed to say a word...we'd be murdered immediately.
We were completely shaven, and then we were in our nakedness, and my sister asked me, ‘How do I look?’ You know, Hungarian women can be quite vain, and, and I had a choice...realizing that I became her mirror, and I said to her, ‘You know Magda, you have such beautiful eyes, and I didn't see it when you had your hair all over the place.’
Once we got through all that routine, we were taken to block 14. It was night, and by that time there was no room for us. We had to sit all night on the stone floor.
READ MORE: The Jewish Men Forced to Help Run Auschwitz
In Auschwitz you couldn't fight, because if you touched the guard you were shot—right in front of me I saw that. You couldn't flee because if you touched the barbed wires, you were electrocuted. When we took a shower, we didn’t know whether gas is coming out of the water.
Every morning, four o'clock, they knocked on the door [for] roll call. I don't know what was the purpose of it because nobody could escape—the barracks were surrounded by barbed wire, the barbed wire was connected to electricity and every morning in front of the barracks was piled up naked dead people.
Very often we would see Doctor Mengele walking along, looking very smart in shiny boots and always immaculately dressed, and he would wear a pair of white leather gloves. And if anybody didn't look well, he would wave and they would have to step out of line, and we never saw those people again. If you were feeling pale, or whatever, you weren't feeling right…you would prick your finger to draw some blood and make yourself rosy cheeks.
Once a day you got a bowl of soup—they called it soup, I don't know what it was, it wasn’t fit for an animal. No utensils. Five to six people have to share it, so we handed it [from] mouth to mouth, back and forth until the soup disappeared.
I constantly was hallucinating about food. My mother kept Kosher, and she made her challah that was an art piece, and I visualized that in Auschwitz, my mother doing the challah, and mak[ing] her noodles.
I remember a young boy. I think he picked up a potato skin or something. Whenever there was a hanging, we were all called out to watch it, and I remember us shouting, ‘For God's sake, where is God?’ A young boy hung because he picked some bit of food up.
I danced for Doctor Mengele and he gave me a piece of bread. I shared it with everyone. We were a family of inmates, we had to care for each other. If you were just for the me, me, me, you never made it. [Later, during one of several death marches] when you stopped you were shot right away, and I was about to stop. I was getting weaker and weaker, and the girls that I shared the bread with...formed a chair with their arms, and they carried me so I wouldn't die.
When I wanted to give up, I said [to myself] what a great lady my mother was, who stood by all the hardship, raising six children, all by herself in such a primitive circumstances. That's what gave me the strength to want to survive—and also to tell the world what was happening.
It's a notorious thing that people in the camps survived in pairs, or some other people that were taking care of them. My aunt, my mother's sister...heard that our transport came in, so she came to find us, Auntie Berthe. We were still crying for our mother. She did a secret exchange...and took us into her block to take care of us. When people say, how did you survive? We lived for each other.
READ MORE: This Midwife at Auschwitz Delivered 3,000 Babies in Unfathomable Conditions
All I could tell you [was] that it was quite dark, I saw just kind of darkness, and we didn't know who's alive and who's not alive. I was in a very bad state, I was already among the dead, and then I looked up. It was a man. I saw tears in the eyes, and M&Ms in [his] hand.
[As the Allies approached, the Nazis evacuated Harvey and other prisoners to Buchenwald by cattle car.] People [were] dying left and right from hunger. When they died, we took their clothes off to try to keep warmer. When we arrived back to Buchenwald, they came to collect all the dead people from the cattle car to transport them to the crematorium. I was frozen. I was put among the dead people. When I arrived to the crematorium, the prisoner who worked there discovered that I was still alive. He saved my life. I woke up in the barrack. When I opened my eyes, I thought I was in a five-star hotel. Nobody was hollering at me. Nobody was beating me. I was age of 21. I weighed 72 pounds. I could not stand up well on my feet. But I was so happy to be alive. Next day, I ask the people to carry me outside. I wanted to get some fresh air. They carried me outside. I hear a gentleman speak with the French accent.
I really did not know what happened to us in those last hours [before] liberation. Suddenly the Germans got very, very impatient and they collected us all and put us on a train, and it was the first time we went on a passenger train and [at] either end of the train there were machine guns. The British saw a train moving with machine guns on either side, thinking they've got some valuable cargo, they shot our train up. About 60 or 70 of our girls were killed by the British Armada. We jumped out of the train and started waving. I think now it was a miracle that we weren't killed on that train, either by the British or the Germans, who tried to...kill us in the last moment.
READ MORE:How the Nazis Tried to Cover Up Their Crimes at Auschwitz
Living as a survivor
When I was liberated, I got up in the morning, and I realized that my parents are not coming home, and reality hit me. I became very suicidal. I just wanted to die. But I'm glad I did not...because I was able to somehow turn all the tragedy into an opportunity for me to now, not only survive, but also to guide other people to be survivors as well.
I was the age of 22 and I came to [the United States] with one pair of shoes and shirt and slacks, and I was determined to make a success out of my life and that's what I did. I also discovered the best revenge in life is success. You can't hate your enemies, as I said, because when you hate you're not living.
Have I ever found an explanation? No, I haven't. I haven't. But if you want to remain normal, and you want to not end up on psychiatrist couches, or something like that, you have to drift back into a life, join a community and be part of it because...when you were brought up in a community, you want to belong again. And that was the most important thing for me: to belong again.
I don't believe that the world learned the lessons from the Holocaust. This troubles me very deeply.
When the children were separated at the border, I had very, very, very many nightmares, and I still do. So when people tell me I overcame, no, I never overcame, and I never forgot.
I know that I'm 95, I'm blind, I don't question why that happened to me. I wanna go forward, I wanna enjoy every day of my life. When I wake up in the morning, I says, “You're not gonna let me down, I have to get up, I have to proceed with my lecture because I help people.” There is nothing greater and there's nothing bigger.
Edith Eger earned her doctorate in psychology at the University of Texas, El Paso, and works as a clinical psychologist, helping survivors of trauma, including veterans. She is currently writing her second book The Gift and Twelve Lessons from Hell.
Billy Harvey established a successful career as a celebrity cosmetologist before opening his own beauty salon, working with actresses including Judy Garland, Mary Martin and Zsa Zsa Gabor. He currently speaks regularly at the Museum of Tolerance and other venues to share his experiences.
Mindu Hornick was awarded an MBE in December 2019 for her two decades of work as a Holocaust educator teaching about the dangers of intolerance and hatred. She works with the Holocaust Memorial Trust and the Anne Frank Trust.
For 196 prisoners the escape finished with success. The majority of them lived to see the end of the war.
Tadeusz Sobolewicz (Polish pronunciation: [taˈdɛ. uʂ sɔbɔˈlɛvitʂ]; 26 March 1925 – 28 October 2015) was a Polish actor, author, and public speaker. He survived six Nazi concentration camps, a Gestapo prison and a nine-day death march.
|Clary, Robert||M||March 1, 1926|
|Polanski, Roman||M||August 18, 1933|
|Posner, Ruth||F||April 20, 1933|
Mr Ferster was one of the few who survived Auschwitz, which was eventually liberated in January 1945.
We believe in the free flow of information
Nearly all the 1.3 million people sent to Auschwitz, the Nazi death camp in occupied Poland, were murdered – either sent to the gas chambers or worked to death. Life expectancy in many of these camps was between six weeks and three months.
During their stay in Auschwitz, prisoners received only one ragged uniform and a pair of shoes or crude, uncomfortable clogs that caused serious sores and illness. They were made to wear the same uniform—frequently lice-ridden—to work during the day and to sleep at night.
|Died||11 August 2017 (aged 113 years, 330 days) Haifa, Israel|
|Known for||Oldest living man (18 January 2016 – 11 August 2017) Oldest survivor of the Holocaust|
The mortality rate was no lower here than in the rest of Auschwitz. The children were allowed to spend the day in the children's block, where teachers led by the charismatic Fredy Hirsch engaged them in improvised lessons and games.
In 1944 the Jewish babies were not killed straight after birth. However, one day there was news that mothers with babies would be sent to the gas. Indeed, the babies were exterminated and their mothers were immediately discharged from the hospital and sent to the camp.
Josef Mengele carried out painful experiments on pregnant Vera but the fetus survived. She delivered Angela with the help of a fellow inmate in an upper bunk of their barrack. Angela weighed two pounds and she was so weak that she did not cry. She went unnoticed until the liberation of the camp on January 27, 1945.
Living conditions in the camp when the US 8th Infantry and the 82nd Airborne arrived were deplorable. There was little food or water, and some prisoners had resorted to cannibalism. When the units arrived there, they found about 1,000 inmates dead in the camp.
Jewish Holocaust survivors who adjusted best to life after World War II were able to seal away their traumas so successfully that they protect even their present-day dreams, according to an Israeli study.
Piechowski yelled in German to the men manning the gate, he later told the Guardian. “Open up or I'll open you up!” The gate opened, and the escapees drove to freedom.
The Franks and four other Jews who were hiding with them were discovered by authorities on August 4, 1944. The only member of the Frank family who survived the Holocaust was Anne's father, Otto, who later worked diligently to get his daughter's diary published.
They were in the mountains near the village of Porebka, where the four prisoners who escaped before them were caught. Apparently, they had strayed too close to the soldier-infested village, and now a German patrol pursued them up the mountainside, dogs howling and bullets peppering the landscape. A stream saved them.
Block 25. The wall separating the yard of Block 25 (called "the Block of Death") from the rest of the camp. In Block 25 female prisoners selected to death awaited transportation to the gas chambers.
Auschwitz was the largest and deadliest of six dedicated extermination camps where hundreds of thousands of people were tortured and murdered during World War II and the Holocaust under the orders of Nazi dictator, Adolf Hitler.
Contents. Auschwitz, also known as Auschwitz-Birkenau, opened in 1940 and was the largest of the Nazi concentration and death camps. Located in southern Poland, Auschwitz initially served as a detention center for political prisoners.
The grounds and buildings of the Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau camps are open to visitors.
On the night of 26–27 April 1943 Pilecki was assigned to a night shift at a camp bakery outside the fence, and he and two comrades managed to force open a metal door, overpower a guard, cut the telephone line, and escape outside the camp perimeter.
Over the weekend, thieves stole part of the entrance to Germany's infamous Dachau concentration camp — an iron gate wrought with the slogan "Arbeit Macht Frei," or "work sets you free."
|Occupation||Schoolteacher, Public speaker|
The oldest person living (female) was Kane Tanaka (Japan, b. 2 January 1903) who recently passed away on 19 April 2022 at the age of 119. The new oldest person living (female) and the overall oldest person living is Sister André (France, b.
A Jewish prisoner who survived the Auschwitz death camp for 18 months during World War Two has died aged 90. Mayer Hersh was one of the longest-serving inmates of the extermination camp in Nazi-occupied Poland, in which 1.1 million people were killed.
Block 31 at the family camp was the children's block, and its guiding force was Fredy Hirsch. Since generally, children were sent to their deaths upon arrival at Auschwitz, it was very unusual to see children at the camp.
She was deported to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp with Margot. Their parents stayed behind in Auschwitz. The conditions in Bergen-Belsen were horrible too. There was a lack of food, it was cold, wet and there were contagious diseases.
Eva Clarke was one of only three babies born in Mauthausen concentration camp who survived the Holocaust. She was born on 29 April 1945, just a day after the Nazis had destroyed the camp's gas chambers and less than a week before its liberation.
Auschwitz was about the size of 6,000 football fields.
”The Boys”, as they are being referred to today, stayed in Windermere for about three months. Some even reunited with parts of their family. Sadly, this was rather an exemption as mostly all their family members had been murdered in the War. Approximately half of the 732 children settled permanently in England.
Many suffered from tuberculosis, typhoid, dysentery, pneumonia and other infections diseases. Injuries were common, caused by beating, punitive whiplashing and other forms of physical abuse, gunshot wounds and dog-bites.
Fiji, previously known as the Cannibal Isles. Nazino Island, an island in Ob, Russia, where an infamous GULAG prison camp was situated. Pelegosto or Cannibal Island, a fictional island in the movie Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest.
Most prisoners of war (POWs) existed on a very poor diet of rice and vegetables, which led to severe malnutrition. Red Cross parcels were deliberately withheld and prisoners tried to supplement their rations with whatever they could barter or grow themselves.
A man arrested in northern Russia has been charged with cannibalism, after three partially eaten murder victims were identified along with remains of cats, dogs and smaller animals. The 51-year-old is suspected of having eaten the animals as well as the three men, whom he had befriended and plied with alcohol.
Peter fell ill and ended up in the sick barracks. The camp was liberated by American troops on 5 May 1945. According to a list kept by the medical staff, Peter van Pels died on 10 May 1945. He was 18 years old.
|Eva Schloss MBE|
|Spouse(s)||Zvi Schloss ( m. 1952; died 2016)|
Willem Gerardus van Maaren (August 10, 1895 - November 28, 1971) was the person most often suggested as the betrayer of Anne Frank.
A psychiatric syndrome following overwhelming stress after an interval of more than thirty years is described in holocaust survivors who had claimed compensation for persecution between 1939 and 1945.
Conclusions: These results suggest that exposure to Holocaust conditions in early life may be associated with a higher prevalence of obesity, dyslipidemia, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular morbidity, malignancy and peptic diseases in adulthood.
Learning about the dangers of hatred and discrimination in the Holocaust is important to fighting intolerance and prejudice in today's world. Studying the Holocaust provides opportunities to explore and inspire with stories of courage and adversity, upstander behaviour and resilience.
Two Jews, Czesław Mordowicz from Poland and Arnošt Rosin from Slovakia, escaped from Auschwitz in May 1944.
Despite the odds, from 1934 until the prison was closed in 1963, 36 men tried 14 separate escapes. Nearly all were caught or didn't survive the attempt. The fate of three particular inmates, however, remains a mystery to this day.
|Gate of the "family camp" at Auschwitz II–Birkenau|
|Date||5 April 1944|
|Participants||Viktor Pestek, Siegfried Lederer|
|Outcome||Lederer reports to the Theresienstadt leaders about Auschwitz Pestek executed for favoring inmates and desertion|
No, Anne Frank was not blind. Anne Frank was born in 1929 and grew up in Amsterdam. In 1940, following the Nazi occupation, she and her family faced...
What would be the age of Anne Frank if alive? Anne Frank's exact age would be 93 years 1 month 6 days old if alive. Total 34,004 days. Anne Frank was one of the world's most famous young diarists who is known for the only book she wrote titled The Diary of A Young Girl.
No, Anne Frank was not deaf. Anne Frank entered her teenage years when she went into hiding in 1942 and kept a journal of her experiences over the...
In concentration camp (in German Konzentrationslager or KL) Auschwitz the use of the languages of the inmates (such as Polish, Czech, Russian, Italian or French) was forbidden. There was one official language in all the concentration camps: German.
After the war Vrba trained as a biochemist, working mostly in England and Canada. Vrba and fellow escapee Alfréd Wetzler fled Auschwitz three weeks after German forces invaded Hungary and shortly before the SS began mass deportations of Hungary's Jewish population to the camp.
For three months three prisoners, Lieutenant Michael Codner, Flight Lieutenant Eric Williams and Flight Lieutenant Oliver Philpot, in shifts of one or two diggers at a time, dug over 30 m (100 ft) of tunnel, using bowls as shovels and metal rods to poke through the surface of the ground to create air holes.
Short for Arbeitslager, which is German for “labor camp,” Lager is the name the Jewish prisoners in the book most often use to describe Auschwitz. More than simply describing the physical location, the term Lager also embodies the dehumanization and cruelty wrought upon the Jewish prisoners by the Germans in the camp.
Which was the most likely reason the bodies of victims at Auschwitz were cremated? met with violence by the government. What effect did the Battle of Verdun have on the city of Verdun? The city and its surroundings were almost completely destroyed.
The Nazis operated the camp between May 1940 and January 1945—and since 1947, the Polish government has maintained Auschwitz, which lies about 40 miles west of Krakow, as a museum and memorial.
The Jewish victims of the Holocaust were mostly killed at Auschwitz II Birkenau. The March of the Living is organized in Poland annually since 1988. Marchers come from countries as diverse as Estonia, New Zealand, Panama, and Turkey.
It's a myth. Birds fly over the site of former camps. Part of Birkenau is covered with natural forest. Auschwitz I is located by the river.
A cynical lie: the inscription above the main gate to Auschwitz 1 that reads “ARBEIT MACHT FREI” (work sets you free). When the SS ordered them to make this sign, the prisoners placed their hidden message in the word “ARBEIT”: they turned the letter “B” upside down.
The very first task the German government gave the Hungarians was to round up Jewish families and deport them to Auschwitz.. So in the spring of 1944 my family – my parents and their six children, the oldest of whom was 17 and I was 13 – found ourselves in the Munkács ghetto and from there being taken on cattle carts to Auschwitz in Nazi-occupied Poland.. My father surveyed the scene from the train and could see prisoners, uniforms and barracks so we immediately thought it was a work camp, and that was reassuring – if we can work, it can’t be such a dreadful place.. All of a sudden you are told to leave it all and walk out with a single suitcase Irene Fogel Weiss When we arrived it was, as I later found out, the usual story, though not to us at the time.. Unbeknown to any of us at the time, two Nazi soldiers had been asked to make a photographic document of the deportation of Hungarian Jews from the moment they got off the train – through the entire system of arriving, going to the bath house and getting their prison clothes – so I ended up in a picture at the very moment I was separated from my sister.. For years when we talked about our experience she’d say to me: “You probably don’t remember, you were too young,” as I was four years younger, but some things I remembered even more sharply than her and my aunt.. Joseph Mandrowitz, Auschwitz survivor Photograph: Tim KnoxWe had a quiet life until the day they took 1,000 Jews away from my village of Czemierniki, a typical Polish village with a big square around which community life took place.. When I finally returned to Czemierniki in 1993, despite the years in which Jews had lived there I could not find a trace either of my family or of Jewish life.. We went back to live in Trenčín, the small town in Slovakia where my mother had moved when she married my father, and where the Red Cross found us a room.. Probably my earliest memories of anything at all are of walking through the streets of Trenčín and people stopping in their tracks and saying with amazement: “You’re back!” “What a miracle that you’re alive!” I understood as a three-and-a-half to four-year-old that I was a miracle because I got to hear it so many times, but I didn’t really understand what the word meant.. Susan Pollack at her London home Photograph: Graeme Robertson/GuardianFrom the moment I arrived in Auschwitz with my mother and brother in May 1944, the terror of it just invaded my whole being.. But when they started taking the ghetto leaders to Auschwitz, I quickly changed jobs and began working in a munitions factory instead, hoping that if I kept my head down, I might be OK.. Photograph: Mondadori Collection/UIG/RexOn our arrival at Auschwitz they chased us off the cattle wagon, which stopped right in front of the gate with the sign Arbeit Macht Frei (Work Makes You Free).. In Stockholm I studied chemistry and it was there I found out, having lost all my family in Europe, that I had relatives in America, an aunt – my father’s sister – who had emigrated in the 1920s, so I went to live with them.. The only place I have is Auschwitz and going back there for the first time will be the first and last chance I have to be able to return to the people I loved who I lost there and in other concentration camps.
All I have are these tears to pour over the past,” Batsheva Dagan, 95, told the crowd that gathered Monday for a solemn ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration and death camp.. The ceremony at Auschwitz culminated a week of events around the world, including a commemoration in Jerusalem attended by dozens of world leaders, who urged collective vigilance against a resurgence of anti-Semitism worldwide.. Fifteen years ago, some 1,500 survivors attended the anniversary event.. The president of Poland, Andrzej Duda, refused to attend the Jerusalem event because he was not asked to speak, though Mr. Putin was.. “Political speeches are not enough.. Severe, tough, real laws that will put these hatemongers away in prison for a long, long time.. Children must be educated and know where the hatred of Jews leads.”. Their stories, even all these years later, remain shocking.. Lesser lied to Dr. Mengele, saying he was 18, healthy and fit to work.. “People would love to forget the hard truths and that’s why we need to keep coming back here to refresh our memories and keep the world from acquiring amnesia,” said Mr.. Marian Turski, 93, a historian and Auschwitz survivor, said he attended the event as much for his daughter and grandchildren as for himself.. Speaking during the ceremony, he urged people to pay attention to what was happening in the world and to speak out.. “Don’t be indifferent when you witness historical lies,” he said.
Children and grandchildren walked beside survivors or pushed their wheelchairs into buildings made of brick and hatred, proof that the Nazis couldn’t turn every family, every future, to ash.. As nearly 200 survivors, including Wisnia, have converged on southern Poland to commemorate the end of that hell 75 years ago Monday, loved ones know these living moments are bittersweet.. “My grandfather’s story is my story.. It’s the story of my family.. A senior lieutenant in the Soviet army who helped liberate the camps was scheduled to speak at a discussion hosted by the World Jewish Congress on Sunday afternoon.. Ronald S. Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, said one-third of Auschwitz survivors have died in the past five years.. In many families, Saointz said, grandchildren and great-grandchildren have been the biggest witnesses.. The official 75th commemoration began just after 3:30 p.m. (9:30 a.m. Philadelphia time) on Monday, with survivors gathered beneath a special tent erected above the Gate of Death of the former Auschwitz II-Birkenau camp.. Avi stood beside him, a singer like his grandfather.
Survivors of the Auschwitz death camp have told of their torturous experiences before a former guard goes on trial accused of 170,000 counts of accessory to murder.. Reinhold Hanning (pictured), 94, a former SS guard at Auschwitz, is set to go on trial accused of 170,000 counts of accessory to murder. Auschwitz survivor Leon Schwarzbaum (pictured, holding a picture of himself (left) next to his uncle and parents who all died at the death camp) said it would be very unsettling to come face to face with the former SS guard in court on Thursday. Hanning, who now lives in the small western city of Detmold, admitted to serving at the Auschwitz I part of the complex in Nazi occupied Poland but denied being at the Auschwitz II-Birkenau section where most of the Nazi's 1.1million victims were killed.. But last year, prosecutors managed to successfully convict SS Unterscharfuehrer Oskar Groening, who served in Auschwitz, on 300,000 counts of accessory to murder.. He is one of four former Nazi guards (pictured, the death camp in Poland in 1965) being put on trial for war crimes this year, following an 11th hour push by German prosecutors. One of the two other cases likely to go on trial this year involves a 93-year-old woman charged with 260,000 counts of accessory to murder over allegations she served as a radio operator for an Auschwitz commandant in 1944.. Former SS officer Hubert Zafke, 95, is also set to go on trial at the end of February in Neubrandenburg, north of Berlin, on 3,681 counts of accessory to murder on accusations he served as a medic at an SS hospital in Auschwitz in 1944.. One of the two other cases likely to go on trial this year involves a 93-year-old woman charged with 260,000 counts of accessory to murder at Auschwitz (pictured). Another 94-year-old man is charged with 1,276 counts of accessory to murder on allegations he served as an Auschwitz guard (pictured, the death camp in January 1945). Former SS officer Hubert Zafke, 95, is set to go trial on 3,681 counts of accessory to murder on accusations he served as a medic at an SS hospital in Auschwitz (pictured) in 1944
AUSCHWITZ — In one of the few armed Jewish uprisings during the Holocaust, on October 7, 1944, a group of Auschwitz-Birkenau prisoners working in the four crematoria staged the Sonderkommando Revolt.. The carefully planned scheme was born in 1943 when women assigned to Weichsel-Union-Metallwerke, a munitions factory at one of the 45 Auschwitz satellite camps, began to smuggle gunpowder into Birkenau.. Women working there conveyed the powder to the sonderkommando, Jewish prisoners who worked in the death camps.. The preserved crematorium at the museum at Auschwitz 1 during a tour of Israeli Holocaust survivors on January 28, 2015.. AdvertisementAlthough this episode physically affected relatively few in the horrid history of Auschwitz, it was clear at the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the camp organized by the World Jewish Congress this week that for many in the 36-strong Israeli Holocaust survivor delegation, it is a story that strongly resonates.. Taken to Auschwitz from Czechoslovakia in 1944, of the 1,200 Jewish children imprisoned in the Roma camp at Birkenau, he says he is one of only three there who lived.
But though the camps that made up Auschwitz seemed silent and abandoned at first, soldiers soon realized they were filled with people—thousands of them, left to die by SS guards who evacuated the camps after trying to cover up their crimes.. As they saw the soldiers, the emaciated prisoners hugged, kissed and cried.. After five years of hell, Auschwitz was liberated at last.. Even as they waited to determine if a mass evacuation was needed, the Germans began to destroy evidence of their crimes.. They murdered most of the Jews who had worked in Auschwitz’s gas chambers and crematoria, then destroyed most of the killing sites.. They planned what prisoners thought of as death marches—lengthy, forced journeys from Auschwitz toward other concentration and death camps.. By January 21, most SS officers had left for good.. Some prisoners scavenged among the possessions the SS had not managed to destroy.. Liberating Auschwitz was not in their orders, but when a group of scouts stumbled into Birkenau on January 27, 1945, they knew they had found something terrible.. That human kindness characterized the liberation.. With the help of the Polish government, a group of former prisoners turned the site into a memorial and museum.. Rudolf Höss during his trial in Warsaw, March 31, 1947.. Auschwitz had been the site of 1.1 million murders, and in 1947 it became the site of its mastermind’s hanging.. Despite the best efforts of Höss and his fellow Nazis, approximately 15 percent of the people sent to Auschwitz are thought to have survived.
More people died at Auschwitz than at any other Nazi concentration camp.. The woman who shaved her hair tore the earrings from the holes in her ears, while my sister screamed: “They’re my mother’s!” She said to her: “Be happy we’ve left your head on.”. I’ve been back to Auschwitz many times.. This will be my third time going back to Auschwitz.. On 27 January, I was liberated, though I don’t know how I survived that long.. We first went back to Auschwitz as a family in 2016.. But I regret to this day that I never really talked to my father about a lot of things, including the loss of my mother.
More than 200 survivors gathered at the former Nazi extermination camp of Auschwitz, many probably for the final time, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of its liberation.. More than 1.1 million people were murdered at the camp, most of them Jews.. ShowThe Auschwitz concentration camp complex in south-west Poland was the site of the largest mass murder in a single location in human history.. More people died at Auschwitz than at any other Nazi concentration camp.. Auschwitz II had the largest prisoner population of any of the three main camps on the site.. In January 1942, the first chamber using lethal Zyklon B gas was built.. Angela Orosz visits the memorial site.. ‘I have little choice but to come back’ Photograph: Wojtek Radwański/AFP via Getty Images“I always claimed to my kids that I had suffered no trauma from having been here, until my daughter asked me why then, unlike other families, did I never throw potato peelings away?. Because my mother had probably survived because of the peelings she had eaten and the goodness in them, she had been able to give birth to me and so I had survived, so of course the survival instinct I inherited from her made me always do the same.”
It was 1980, and the forestry student was working to help restore the original forest around what was once Auschwitz-Birkenau , one of the Nazis’ most notorious death camps.. Dyrcz was there to help mitigate the effects decades of air pollution had on the forest, attempting to let its original pine trees grow once more.. Though Dyrcz could not read the text—it was written in Greek—he had just discovered one of the most important pieces of testimony of the Holocaust : eyewitness accounts of Nazi crimes, written by Marcel Nadjary, a Jewish man from Greece who had been enslaved with about 2,000 others and forced to help the Nazis as they operated their grimly efficient killing machines.. Nadjary had been one of the Sonderkommando—a group of men, most of them Jewish, tasked with taking the Nazis’ victims from the gas chambers and disposing of the bodies.. Though historians had known about the Sonderkommando, the secrecy of their work and the fact that so many didn’t survive the Holocaust, made testimony like Nadjary’s even more precious.. Since the people brought to the gas chambers were all murdered, the Sonderkommando were the only witnesses who survived.. The word Sonderkommando means “special unit” in German, and from the start, the men tasked with helping the Nazis lived lives that were different from those of other prisoners at Auschwitz.. They were also kept in isolation; most never interacted with other prisoners at the camp aside from other members of the unit and those who were about to be murdered.. They carried the bodies to the crematoria and stuffed them into the ovens.. The Sonderkommandos’ work ultimately helped the Nazis, but was performed under constant threat of death and with an understanding that, as material witnesses to the Nazis’ crimes, they too would be murdered at some point.. They also took an accidental photo of some trees in the forest where the gas chambers were located and two photos of bodies being burned in the open, which had become a necessity due to overcrowded furnaces.. The four photographs, which were smuggled out of the camp in a toothpaste tube and delivered to Polish Resistance fighters, are the only photos in existence that document what happened near the gas chambers at Auschwitz.. But these documents remain as important proof of what happened during the Holocaust, as well as evidence of the immense physical and psychological toll the Nazis exacted on the men they forced to help carry out their crimes.
A book that recounts the horrors of the Nazi' 'Family Camp' and its 'Children's Block' at Auschwitz-Birkenau - including rapes, floggings and being shot for going to the toilet - has been published to a wider audience for the first time.. The Children's Block , originally published in Czech, as a book called 'The Painted Wall' in 1993, tells the true story of 500 Jewish children held in special areas of the Nazi death camps constructed to deceive the Red Cross about horrifying conditions for Czech families captured by the Germans.. A book, first published in 1993 and now republished for a wider English-speaking audience, uses the autobiographical story of Otto B Kraus, who worked as a counsellor in the Children's Block, part of the Family Camp at Nazi death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau (Pictured: children at the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau showing off their identity tattoos in 1945). The book, The Children's Block, is a fictional account based on real events by Otto B Kraus, who was deported from the Czech ghetto-turned-concentration camp, Terezín, to Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1943. Kraus' account offers distressing insights into how the young inhabitants suffered, despite them being labelled as 'SB,' 'Sonderbehandlung' - part of a ploy to fool the Red Cross Commission, which was permitted to visit the ghetto-turned-concentration camp, Terezín, in former Czechoslovakia, where many of the families came from.. The camps served to disprove that Jews were being exterminated at the Nazi camp - and the reason why the prisoners appeared to be being treated more favourably was only discovered at the Second World War's end.. Children would spend time in the Children's Block in the day and return to the Family Camp in the evening.. In reality, the children would be brutally killed - in the gas chambers - six months after the day of their arrival in the camp.. The characters that Kraus, who died in 2000, creates represent people he met while there, with the narrative based on the diary of fictitious Children's Block teacher Alex Ehren, who shields the children he encounters from the terror around them.. During his research, Kraus discovered more of the adults who worked on the Children's Block remained alive than those who were sent to other camps, coming to the conclusion that it was the sense of duty they felt towards the children motivated them to stay alive.. In Auschwtiz, he worked as a councellor in the camp's Children's Block.. Many of the children who arrived from Terezín at Auschwitz-Birkenau didn't wear the striped prisoner uniform, seen as one of the privileges of being in the Family Camp (Pictured: A group of child survivors behind a barbed wire fence at the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau in southern Poland, on the day of the camp's liberation by the Red Army, 27th January 1945). The 'school' of the Children's Block seemed completely different to the usual representation of concentration camps.. Unlike the French or German children or Jewish children from other countries, the Czech children could play, visit their parents, and put on shows attended by SS officers.. The Family Camp had a survival rate of about 6.6 percent, according to Kraus' research, but, astonishingly, most of the adults who worked on the Children's Block survived.
Holocaust survivor Shmuel Blumenfeld, 94, shows the Auschwitz prison number 108006 on his arm, during a photo session at his home in the City of Bat Yam south of Tel Aviv, on November 28, 2019. Holocaust survivor Batcheva Dagan, whose entire family was killed, shows her arm with the Auschwitz prison number 45554, during a photo session at her home in the Israeli town of Holon, south of Tel Aviv, on December 25, 2019. After living in Belgium for many years, Icek moved to Jerusalem and for the first time began uncovering the prisoner number tattooed on his arm at Auschwitz.. Holocaust survivor Szmul Icek shows his Auschwitz prison number 117568 on his arm, during a photo session at his home in Jerusalem on December 8, 2019. Holocaust survivor Avraham Gershon Binet, 81, shows his arm with the Auschwitz prison number 14005, during a photo session at his home in Bnei Brak on December 8, 2019. Holocaust survivor Helena Hirsch shows her arm with the Auschwitz prison number A 20982, during a photo session at her home in Israel's Beni Brak suburb east of Tel Aviv, on December 16, 2019. Holocaust survivor Malka Zaken, 91, shows her arm with the Auschwitz prison number 76979, during a photo session at her home in Tel Aviv on December 16, 2019. Holocaust survivor Danny Chanoch, 87, shows his arm with the Auschwitz prison number B2628, during a photo session at his home in Karmei Yosef in central Israel, on December 10, 2019. Chanoch, who lives in a village between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, was philosophical about his experience in the death camp: 'Sometimes I say to myself, 'how could I live without Auschwitz?''. The sole survivor of eight children, he recounted his determination to survive on realising the day after arriving at Auschwitz that most of his family had been killed.. Holocaust survivor Menahem Haberman, 92, shows his arm with the Auschwitz prison number A10011, during a photo session with his daughter Rachel at his home in Jerusalem, on December 12, 2019. 'Then, I clearly showed my number from Auschwitz and I told him: 'Your men didn't finish their mission, I spent two years there and I'm still alive',' Blumenfeld said in German, before translating the conversation into Hebrew.. Holocaust survivor Dov Landau, 91, shows a picture of himself with other free prisoners taken after the war, during a photo session at his home in Tel Aviv, on December 16, 2019. Holocaust survivor Szmul Icek shows a picture of his parents killed by the Nazis, during a photo session at his home in Jerusalem on December 8, 2019. Holocaust survivor Shmuel Blumenfeld, 94, carries a bag containing earth from locations where his family members were killed by Nazis, during a photo session at his home in the City of Bat Yam south of Tel Aviv, on November 28, 2019
At his Toronto home, Auschwitz survivor John Freund, 89, holds a picture of himself, left, and his parents and brother.. Monday marks the 75th anniversary of the arrival of Soviet troops at Auschwitz, liberating the complex in Nazi-occupied Poland where more than one million Jews, Poles, Roma and Soviet prisoners had been exterminated.. Thousands of survivors, including Mr. Freund and Mr. Eisen, resettled in Canada after the Second World War and many devoted years bearing witness to the terror they endured.. And so they still feel the duty to recount how they lost their families, how they survived the slave labour and how Auschwitz was a uniquely cruel place with its unspoken rules, gas chambers and warehouses named after Canada.. Ms. Ziegler, Mr. Freund and Max Eisen came to Canada still bearing the letters and numbers that were tattooed on their forearms for identification purposes at Auschwitz.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail, TLNT Productions. Miriam Ziegler holds a picture of herself, second from left, and other Auschwitz child survivors at her home in Richmond Hill, Ont.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail. At the same time, Auschwitz started as a concentration camp for Polish political prisoners, who first arrived in June, 1940.. That summer, the commandant of Auschwitz, Rudolf Hoess, was ordered to prepare the camp to exterminate Jews.. Instead of carbon monoxide, the Germans in Auschwitz tested a cyanide-based pesticide, Zyklon B, on Soviet and Polish prisoners.. Prisoners in the Aufrumungskommando (order commandos) unload the confiscated property of a transport of Jews at a warehouse in Auschwitz.. The family camp Another example of Nazi duplicity was Theresienstadt, a transit camp near Prague used as a Potemkin display that Jews were treated properly.. The experiments Ms. Ziegler, who had been in a Polish ghetto with her parents, was 8 when they were sent to Auschwitz in early 1944.. Mr. Freund’s father and brother and Ms. Ziegler’s father were among thousands who didn’t survive the death marches.
This is her late father Eugene Spiegel, aged just 30, and six years before she was born, caught on camera in a desperate moment when he must have lost all hope of a future, let alone fatherhood.. Anita, 69, movingly describes the unexpected moment last week when she came face to face with her dad in this image, standing within Hitler’s most notorious death camp, Auschwitz , in one of a selection of newly colourised black and white photographs taken there in May, 1944.. Two young Jewish boys are forced to stand in line before the selection process (. Serge Klarsfeld/Lily Jacob-Zelmanovic Meier). The shots, taken by SS guards, have been tinted for use in a new documentary, Auschwitz Untold: In Colour, to be shown on More4 on Sunday and Monday, to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the liberation, by Soviet forces, of the camp where 1.1million were murdered.. Somehow, Eugene survived Auschwitz, as did his wife, Margaret – although the pair lost each other for over a year after liberation, assuming each other dead before they were miraculously reunited.. Taken around a month after Eugene and Margaret first arrived in Auschwitz, her father stands within the confused crowds who have been forced out of the stinking cattle trucks that have transported them.. “And when he arrived, he arrived with a brother, and my father was placed in one line and his brother in the other.. This collection of colourised photographs were all taken on Auschwitz’s infamous arrivals ramp, and form part of what is now named The Auschwitz Album, the only surviving visual evidence of the process leading to the mass murder at Auschwitz-Birkenau.. The photos all show the arrival of Hungarian Jews (. Serge Klarsfeld/Lily Jacob-Zelmanovic Meier). Eugene and Margaret arrived at Auschwitz from a small town called Ungvar, now in Ukraine, in April 1944.. Women are pictured at the death camp before they're chosen for slave labour (. Serge Klarsfeld/Lily Jacob-Zelmanovic Meier). Both their sets of parents were gassed immediately they arrived; Eugene also lost a brother and sister, and Margaret a young brother.. While Margaret was liberated there on January 27, 1945, Eugene was sent on a death march with his surviving brother to the camp of Buchenwald, which wasn’t liberated until May.. Anita says: “On the death march my father was already very ill and just wanted to give up, but his brother just carried him on his back, he wouldn’t let him.”. Anita, who married a British man and moved to England, recalls their happy life, although Eugene always needed extra care.
Korczowski and Pogonowski were among the first prisoners at the Auschwitz concentration camp, which was set up in the spring of 1940 in the buildings of what used to be Polish army barracks.. The camp functionaries and guards were 30 German criminals whom the SS had brought to Auschwitz from the Sachsenhausen concentration camp a short time previously.. The Polish prisoners were victims of a German occupation policy that aimed to wipe out the Polish elites.. As early as 1940, Witold Pilecki, an officer in the Polish Underground Army, had provided the Allies with reports from Auschwitz.. Even though it was such a unique phenomenon in European history, the Polish Underground State is barely known about outside of Poland, says Jochen Böhler, adding that the same goes for crimes committed by the Germans in occupied Poland.. And the context in this case was the German occupation of Poland, one of whose aspirations from 1941 was to murder European Jews on Polish soil," he says.
Holocaust survivor Irene Buchman shares her story of surviving Auschwitz: 'It's heartbreaking for me' ›
Several weeks after Buchman's mother was killed, the Jewish prisoners were again forced to march in a single file line in front of SS soldiers and Dr. Josef Mengele, known as the "Angel of Death.". A view inside a prisoner barracks in the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz Birkenau or Auschwitz II in Oswiecim, Poland.. On Jan. 27, 1945, the Red Army arrived in Auschwitz and found thousands of sick and starving survivors.. Holocaust survivors stand behind a barbed-wire fence after the liberation of Nazi German death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1945 in Nazi-occupied Poland, in this handout picture obtained by Reuters on January 19, 2020.. They were found days later by British soldiers.
'This is Auschwitz. You will never get out': Canadian Holocaust survivor recalls his dark time in Nazi death camp ›
Herczeg is a survivor of Auschwitz and the Muhldorf camp.. The German soldier waved his hand — to the left, to the right — and my mother was sent with the old women she was helping,” he remembers.. “It was the last time I saw my mother,” he said.. It was the last time I saw my mother. An aerial picture shows barracks and buildings of former Nazi German Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp complex in Oswiecim, Poland, Jan. 15, 2020.Photo by Axel Schmidt/ReutersNow 90 and living in Montreal, Herczeg is one of a dwindling number of eyewitnesses to the horrors of the Auschwitz death camp in German-occupied Poland.. We watched through the wooden slats as the SS officers loaded everyone from the barrack into trucks.. He was in Auschwitz for two months before he was sent to Mühldorf, a labour camp in Germany.. Paul Herczeg at his home in Montreal in 2015.Photo by John Kenney / Postmedia NewsHis father was worked to his death at Mühldorf.. He said he survived because after his father died, he was caught trying to escape and the guard, instead of shooting him, let him work in the kitchen rather than the gruelling work on the bunker.