My mother is a Polish Jew. She survived the Holocaust at the age of 11. She was the only member of her immediate family to survive. She made it through the war by hiding, first in a chicken coup, thanks to the incredible bravery of a righteous Gentile, and then in a Convent, thanks only to the will of the Almighty, because the Nuns would certainly have turned her over to the SS if they had known that she was Jewish. Several major obvious miracles occurred which allowed her to survive; I may blog about them at some point.
My grandfather died in Auschwitz. He was known to have suffered from kidney stones. This was apparently also known to the Nazi guards at the camp, as they beat him mercilessly across his back until he died. He was about the same age that I am now.
My grandmother died in Auschwitz. She was a strikingly beautiful woman, a free spirit. Modern Orthodox before its time. I have pictures of her in a beret, riding a motorcycle. She died of typhus. She was in her twenties.
My aunt died in Auschwitz. She was four. There's some information about her here, and her picture was recently featured in a 60 Minutes documentary. When she was two, my grandfather gave her to a Gentile family to hide. They agreed to do so, but only if she would be raised as a Christian. He reluctantly agreed.
2 years later, the family brought her to the house where my mother was hiding in the chicken coup. They couldn't keep her anymore. She looked too Jewish; the neighbors were suspicious. She was captured in a raid of the coup. She was eventually shot in the head by a vicious German officer, after she sang a song for him.
It's hard for me to understand that there are people in this world who still don't know about these events, or are willing to say that they never occurred. It is even more incomprehensible that these types of things still go on, and that we in the democratic world lack the moral strength to say that no one should ever have to endure this type of cruelty.
Here then, is the official Blogburst:
The Holocaust, symbolized by Auschwitz, the worst of the death camps, occurred in the wake of consistent, systematic, unrelenting anti-Jewish propaganda campaign. As a result, the elimination of the Jews from German society was accepted as axiomatic, leaving open only two questions: when and how. As Germany expanded its domination and occupation of Austria, Czechoslovakia, France, the Low Countries, Yugoslavia, Poland, parts of the USSR, Greece, Romania, Hungary, Italy and others countries, the way was open for Hitler to realize his well-publicized plan of destroying the Jewish people. After experimentation, the use of Zyklon B on unsuspecting victim was adopted by the Nazis as the means of choice, and Auschwitz was selected as the main factory of death (more accurately, one should refer to the “Auschwitz-Birkenau complex”). The green light for mass annihilation was given at the Wannsee Conference, January 20, 1942, and the mass gassings took place in Auschwitz between 1942 and the end of 1944, when the Nazis retreated before the advancing Red Army. Jews were transported to Auschwitz from all over Nazi-occupied or Nazi-dominated Europe and most were slaughtered in Auschwitz upon arrival, sometimes as many as 12,000 in one day. Some victims were selected for slave labour or “medical” experimentation. All were subject to brutal treatment. In all, between three and four million people, mostly Jews, but also Poles and Red Army POWs, were slaughtered in Auschwitz alone (though some authors put the number at 1.3 million). Other death camps were located at Sobibor, Chelmno, Belzec (Belzek), Majdanek and Treblinka. Auschwitz was liberated by the Red Army on 27 January 1945, sixty years ago, after most of the prisoners were forced into a Death March westwards. The Red Army found in Auschwitz about 7,600 survivors, but not all could be saved. For a long time, the Allies were well aware of the mass murder, but deliberately refused to bomb the camp or the railways leading to it. Ironically, during the Polish uprising, the Allies had no hesitation in flying aid to Warsaw, sometimes flying right over Auschwitz. There are troubling parallels between the systematic vilification of Jews before the Holocaust and the current vilification of the Jewish people and Israel. Suffice it to note the annual flood of anti-Israel resolutions at the UN; or the public opinion polls taken in Europe, which single out Israel as a danger to world peace; or the divestment campaigns being waged in the US against Israel; or the attempts to delegitimize Israel’s very existence. The complicity of the Allies in WW II is mirrored by the support the PLO has been receiving from Europe, China and Russia to this very day. If remembering Auschwitz should teach us anything, it is that we must all support Israel and the Jewish people against the vilification and the complicity we are witnessing, knowing where it inevitably leads.