I was raised by my Grandmother, the wonderful woman who happened to be part Jewish. My Grandfather, the man I never met, died 1963, a few months before I was born. He had been sent to the concentration camps Dachau and Auschwitz; he had to wear the red triangle – like all the other political prisoners during World War II.
The Germans had a system to mark their prisoners. A yellow star for the Jews, a pink triangle for the homosexuals, a red triangle for political prisoners, a black one for the mentally ill and there were many more. They marked my Grandfather, the hard working man because he refused the Hitler salute.
Auschwitz is personal to me, it is part of my history. Today, January 27th marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. That day in 1945 the world learned about the horrifying crimes that had taken place in a prison camp.That day the doors of the biggest killing machine opened. An estimated 1.5 million people had been killed there. Most of them in the gas chambers, many starved to death, others were tortured. My Grandfather was lucky, he only stayed on the prison side of the camp.
I visited the concentration camp Dachau in the South of Germany, first and then I visited Auschwitz in Poland. I was 20 years old. I wanted to see the terrible places I had heard and read so much about. I wanted to walk on the soil where so many -my Grandpa included- had suffered.
I arrived in Oswiecim in Poland, many of the original buildings are still there. I walked along the fence in Auschwitz with others, and I could feel something that is hard to describe. I don’t believe in ghosts, but I could feel a presence. Perhaps evil had left his mark for all eternity. I wasn’t prepared at all, I wasn’t prepared for what I saw, and nothing could have prepared me for what I felt.
I had to leave the room when they showed the movie of the concentration camp. I hardly made it to the bathroom, my stomach was revolting.
How can one not be disturbed by pictures of people that have been treated so badly? My Grandmother would have been one of them if they would have found her.
I didn’t eat for days after that. I didn’t talk much, kept my distance from others. I had walked where my Grandfather and so many others had walked, and it left me shaken. It shook me down to my core.
I had read about it, I had heard about it, seeing it was different. I cannot begin to imagine the horror the soldiers must have felt when they liberated the camp.
72 years later I can see that people start to forget. Many of the survivors have passed on. Many kids have never heard of the Holocaust.
Made up stories like “The Boy in the stripped Pajama’s” get more attention than the actual documentaries. One lady told me, “That book really made me cry,” and it upset me. A fictional story of the Holocaust makes people cry. Was reality not brutal enough?
I learned in school about World War II, we studied it for two years. Today’s children don’t hear much about it. Most of the survivors have passed on, Grandparents today are my age.
I am afraid that the Holocaust will just be a story one day? That we will talk about it, like we talk about the fall of the Roman empire. Oh well, it happened so long ago. We need to remember, especially in times like this. May we never forget what hate and wrong politics can do. May we never forget the evil that took place and killed so many.
The social media campaign was launched two weeks ago by the World Jewish Congress in honor of January 27th. The goal is to reach the younger generation, the ones who don’t know much about the Holocaust.
Bigotry, discrimination, and racism are on the rise worldwide. We all need to be reminded that such horror could happen again.
6 million is the goal, I hope it will be achieved. We need to remember!