Survivors visit Auschwitz ahead of anniversary

2015-01-26 18:03
(Markus Schreiber, AP)

(Markus Schreiber, AP)

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Oswiecim - The voices of Auschwitz survivors praying for their murdered loved ones reverberated on Monday amid the barracks and barbed wire of the former Nazi death camp, with one survivor crying out in a pained voice: "I don't want to come here anymore!"

The survivors were paying private homage to their relatives and the millions of others killed in the Holocaust a day ahead of official commemorations marking the 70th anniversary of the Soviet army's liberation of the camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.

For some, it was their first time back since the end of World War II.

Rose Schindler, 85, who was among 12 survivors from a family of more than 300 people, returned once 20 years ago but said she wanted a final visit to mourn her parents and four siblings who were killed in the Holocaust. She was separated from them upon arrival in Auschwitz with no time to say goodbye and survived because she was selected to do slave labour.

"I have no graves for my mother and sisters and brother, my father. So this somehow it is a way to say goodbye," said Schindler.

Together, several of the survivors said kaddish, or the Jewish prayer for the dead, next to the infamous "Arbeit Macht Frei" sign that hangs above the entrance to the camp. That translates into "work makes you free", a cynical statement given that the Nazis killed most of their prisoners.

Many expressed shock at the recent killings of Jews at a kosher supermarket in Paris, saying they fear the world still has not learned the lessons of the Holocaust.

Marcel Tuchman, a 93-year-old survivor of Auschwitz and three other Nazi camps, reflected on the unspeakable suffering of the 1.1 million Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals and others who were tortured and executed at Auschwitz, many in gas chambers.

"The overwhelming statistics are not the stories to be told," Tuchman said. "The stories could only be told by the victims. Unfortunately their voices were silenced by gas and the crematoria, so we are here, the survivors, to speak for them and honor the memory of their suffering."

Mordechai Ronen, an 82-year-old survivor from Hungary who now lives in Canada, made the trip very reluctantly and said he wasn't sure he had the strength to handle it emotionally. After the survivors prayed in Hebrew he cried out, "I don't want to come here anymore!"

The World Jewish Congress and the USC Shoah Foundation helped bring the survivors to Auschwitz for the anniversary.

The concentration camp was liberated by the Soviet army on 27 January 1945, in the last months of the war. The Soviet advance from the east forced the Nazis to retreat from occupied eastern Europe to Germany and they took many of their prisoners to kill along the way. However, they left several thousand behind, among them children and those prisoners closet to death.

Read more on:    poland

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