This week, flakes of snow dropped across my yard forming a thick carpet of frozen white. Frigid winds howled through the trees blowing snow from the branches, piling it against the side of house into mounds that drifted up to and over our windows and doors. Inside, I sat in front of a flickering fire in my ugg boots, the heat set at a comfortable 68F/20C.
It was Holocaust Memorial Day, and the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. I googled the temperature in Oświęcim, Poland, (Auschwitz in German) where the Nazis built the sprawling death camp. It was -3C/26F.
AFP/Getty Images/wsj blog - A picture taken in January 1945 depicts the Auschwitz concentration camp gate and railways after its liberation by Soviet troops
My grandmother Ala told me about the cold. “You know..when you came back from work, there were these long, long queues. We were standing there on the platz and they were counting if everybody came back from work,” she said. “And also if you were punished they left you standing. Everyone there for one person, standing in the snow for the whole night.”
She may have been referring to Auschwitz, or Ravensbruck, where she was sent in November 1944 as the Russians approached; loaded onto cattle cars for the grueling journey to Germany. It was a miracle she and her husband survived. It was a miracle anyone survived.
She didn't say much about her experience in Auschwitz until after Spielberg’s Schindler’s list was released. We planned to view the movie together, but instead she went with a friend and phoned me a few days later.
“Karen. You must still go,” she said. “The scene in the shower room where they push in all the women, and they look up at the shower heads wondering what is going to happen to them, thinking they will be gassed?”
I paused, stunned. “Yes?”
“That was exactly vot was like for me. Exactly.”
In today’s fractious world, it’s important to remember Auschwitz. As I listened to the ceremonies, like millions around the world, I was moved by the words of survivor Roman Kent. “We share a common goal. We do not want our past to be our children’s future. I hope and believe that this generation will build on mankind’s great traditions - that must embrace pluralism and tolerance, decency and human rights for all people. And must include opposition to Antisemitism and racism, of any sort.”
Do humanity a favor – watch his short speech - Click Here
|Survivor Roman Kent - Photo courtesy nbcnews.com|