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tv   Surviving Auschwitz Concentration Camp  CSPAN  December 26, 2018 6:43pm-8:01pm EST

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not give a big wet kiss to the center. but you have also been got to be able to watch it and say we did not do a hack -- hatchet job in the. >> mark farkas, executive producer on c-span's -- conflict and compromise. on c-span's q&a. holocaust survivor, frank grunwald recalls his experiences as a young boy after the occupied his hometown in czechoslovakia. and about his family's deportation to the auschwitz concentration camp. this event was part of a greensburg community high school program in greensburg, indiana. it is 1 hour and 15 minutes. welcome to greensburg community high school in goddard auditorium. i grant peters, principal of greenberg community heiskell. we are flattered to have everyone here for our annual chautauqua program, and we are very excited about this year's guest. at this time, but like to welcome mr. john pratt up to the stage to begin our program
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today. good morning. on october 19, 2018, a philadelphia newspaper ran an opinion article entitled, why we need a holocaust education, now more than ever. according to the inside defamation league, anti-somatic incidents rose nearly 60% between 2016-2017. the largest single year job the organization has ever recorded. understanding how and why the holocaust occurred helps to demonstrate, not only the horrors that humans are capable of, and desperate conditions, but also the hope that can survive even the most terrifying trauma.
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teaching students about the holocaust shows the dangers of prejudice, and how dehumanization and scapegoating are used to advance an agenda. it is one thing to read about the holocaust in the history books, or listen to a teacher lecture about it. it is completely another to experience history through the eyes of a survivor, and to hear the stories first-hand. 9 days after this was written, on the other side of pennsylvania, and pittsburgh, a gunman walked into the tree of life congregation synagogue and killed 11 people. this was the worst attack on worshiping jewish people in american history. holocaust education is absolutely necessary today. which is why, i am honored to introduce you to frank grunwald, a holocaust survivor, who is here today to share his story with all of you.
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let's give a nice greensburg high school welcome to mr. frank grunwald. thank you, john. can you all hear me? i want to thank john fred and the faculty for arranging this chautauqua on seminar. i think it is a great idea. i am honored to be here. as you can probably tell, i have done this before, so i am not too nervous. not too excited. and, basically, what i am going to talk about, is my personal experience, and my family's experience during world war ii. i was only nine, 10, 11, and 12
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years old when this was going on. i was just a young kid. much younger than most of you here in the room. i do remember all of the important things that happened. i have forgotten some of the details. and, a couple of things i want to mention to you is that, the photographs that you are going to see here are either readily available over the internet. they are either, there are three types of photographs here. some of them are taken by german military, or the ss. the german ss. and were found shortly after the war. there is another group that was taken by american soldiers, when they walked into some of these camps. again, they are available through the internet. there is a third segment of
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photographs that came from my family, that survived the war. they were taken care of by a housekeeper of hours that worked for my grandparents, and she sent them -- save them through the war. and after the war, she say she gave us the photographs. >> there is two types of information i am going to give you. one type is that i remember directly. and the second type of information, which is also very interesting, is information that we found out after the war. so, this is information that came from german documents and american documents. things we did not know about while we are in the camps. so, with that as an introduction, there is only one really important thing i want to mention to you. and, that is that, the story that you are going to hear, is
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typical. rather than a typical. it is typical. so, by that, i me that most jewish families went through this kind of an experience. so, what is not typical in the story, is the fact that as a 9, 10, 11-year-old, and 12-year- old, that i survived. as you may know, most 11 and 12- year-olds did not survive. children were the primary target . jewish children were the primary target of the regime. so, they wanted to basically kill as many jewish children as possible. and, 1.5 million, roughly 1.5 million jewish children died during the holocaust. that is a huge number. just imagine 1.5 million jewish children. it is like, it is
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everybody in indianapolis were a child today. i am talking about greater indianapolis, including the summers. and so,, with that introduction, here is the town where i grew up as a child. the city of prague in czechoslovakia. next slide. and it is an old city, a lot of beautiful old baroque and romanesque baroque and gothic architecture. next slide. and this is a dirty apartment house, which looks really dirty
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and grubby right now in this picture. the reason it's dirty and grubby is because this picture was taken immediately after the communist regime folded up in the late 1990s. and, um, it was not taken care of. but this is really nice well cared for apartment building and it now has been fixed up and it looks like a new building. my family was living on the second floor. you can see that rectangular white window, that was actually and that was actually my room my brother and i used that room, that bedroom and the rest of the apartment belonged to my was my parents, my father and mother were living there and not anyone, my father was a physician and he had his office as part of the apartment.
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we grew up, actually, sort of embarrassing. not even realizing that we were jewish because we were not practicing. we were not practicing jews. so we grew up in a sort of universal religious philosophy. off ethics behavior, how you treat other people, how much you need to respect other people, regardless of who they are. so it was a very universal religious dogma that was taught by our mostly by our mother. so, when, on march 15, 1939 when i was about 6 1/2 years old, when the occupied czechoslovakia i was really surprised, it was also a
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surprise that we found out that everybody suddenly became very anti-jewish and we saw signs all over the city, jews not allowed. in front of the coffee houses in front of the synagogue. in german and in check for the signs, said jews not allowed. we were totally shocked when my brother and i walked one day, actually it was march 15, 1939, we were going out to play at a nearby park. and we were shocked to see this german, what looks like a foreign, we didn't know it was german but it was a foreign piece of military equipment, it was a big gun. it was set up on the riverbank,
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about two blocks from our house, from the apartment house. so, we were surprised to see this huge gun. gun in placement, and behind the gun was a soldier and we found out later on it was a german soldier. and when we got home the same day, that same afternoon, we found out that we are occupied, where suddenly occupied by germany, by the nazi government of germany, so everything just sort of started happening, particularly the anti-jewish, anti-semitic movement in newspapers over the radio, and about all the signs that you saw all over the place. about every store, and above every public building. so, soon after this we were forced out of our apartment, i
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would say soon, i would say about a year after this. we were forced out of our apartment and just before then, both my brother and i, my brother was 4 years older than i was. my brother and i worked kicked out of school. so i was just beginning second grade, my brother was just starting fifth grade, actually sixth grade, he just finished fifth grade. and so we jewswere both kicked out of public schools because were not allowed to go to schools. my dad had to work in a hospital he couldn't work on his own, and, our whole life just really began to change dramatically. through all this, my parents never complained, never showed any hatred or anger towards anybody. and the model around the house
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was keep your chin up. be positive, be proud of who you are, keep your chin up. you're a good person so don't worry about a thing. so it's a very positive attitude. and when my parents spoke at the dinner table about any political issues or any anti- somatic issues, they wanted to say something that was serious or that was happening that was very dangerous, they would speak in french. they were smart enough to know that 7-year-olds and 11-year- olds should not necessarily know everything that is going on, that there are things that children me should not know. so it wasn't interesting. and, about two years after the occupation began, we were kicked out of the apartment. we had to leave everything
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behind, all the carpeting, the piano, all the furniture had to be left behind. all we could do was take our personal belongings and we were moved to a smaller apartment that belonged to friends of ours, distant family members. and we were there for about eight months or nine months and then, from there we were told one day, and this is now, we are now approaching 1942. now it's just three years after the occupation. we were told to assemble at the nearby railroad station, one of the small railroad stations. and we were transported, next slide. we were transported to a small town which, next slide, which
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had a wall around it. this was an old medieval town. many of these old towns in europe had defensive walls around them. so, the germans picked this town, which was called in check parenting. and this was a town built maybe 350 years ago with this 15 foot or 14 foot defensive wall. and they kicked everybody out of town, all of the czechoslovakian people that lived there, maybe nine, 10,000 people. and they made it into a jewish ghetto. and here, we suddenly had 20,000, 30,000, and maybe up to 35,000 jewish families living, next slide, and the boys were separated from the girls and the women were separated from the men, so my parents were living separately and my
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brother and i were put up in this boys school and this was a literal public school that was converted into dormitories. and i was about, by this time i'm about 10 1/2 years old and so i was with the 10-year-old and 11-year-old and my brother was with the 15-year-old in a different classroom. and these classrooms were comer converted into dormitories and we had these beds. this is an actual action taken right after the war of that school. mostly, it housed children. my main interest, my main hobby and my passion was art. art and sketching and drawing was something that i really enjoyed doing and, in the morning we typically had very short lectures on history and maybe a little bit of math and
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some social studies and all very, very impromptu, very casually presented. it was not really school-type education. we didn't have any books, we didn't have much paper to write on, we didn't have lesson plans. so it was mostly discussions by people who more so were not trained to be instructors or teachers. and in the afternoon we had pretty much time to ourselves to do whatever we wanted to do. and i would go out and watch some soccer games. take a piece of paper and do some sketching and drawing when i was outside. and in the evening we had a chance to visit with our parents. my dad worked in a clinic, because he was a doctor so he was in a very primitive, very poorly equipped clinic and my
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mother worked in a kitchen. a real huge kitchen, most likely an army kitchen that cooked, they cooked for maybe two or 3000 people at a time. food was very scarce. we had mostly soup and maybe a piece of bread, there was no such thing as dessert or fruit or fresh vegetables. it was really, really, very, very spartan, very simple. and many people were hungry. it was not a good place to be. it was totally limited. we could go out of the town. there were no stores, there were no shops, you can buy anything, you couldn't get any close, you can get any fresh food or anything. so it was very, very restricted and very simple, and very simple restricted type of life. next slide. so, something really interesting happened about
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eight or nine months after we arrived in that place. one of the kids in our classroom came in one day and actually he was a twin. he was one of the twins in my classroom. and he came in very upset and he said when i asked him what happened, he said well, my grandmother just took an overdose of sleeping pills and she is in a coma. and when i was probing him to find out what happened, why do you think she did this? why did she take the overdose? he said well, she apparently was told that she is going to be shipped east and then she did not want to be shipped anywhere, because she is quite old. she is in her 70s, or early 80s. she knew that she would not be able to survive another transport. so that's when she decided to
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commit suicide. and, it was the first time that i realized that we were in the ghetto, it was a temporary transition point. that people are going to be shipped east, and east typically meant poland. so sure enough about three or four months later in december 1943, our family was asked to assemble at the railroad station atterezin. and there were trains designed to cattle carry cattle. they had no seats we had no toilets, just the wooden floor, no windows to speak of. and now we were loaded up on the cattle cars and there was
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about two 2500 and this was december, the second week of december 1943. and, we were taken by train, by cattle car train for two days, 2 1/2 days with nothing but a pail of water and another pail for human waste, so we had two big buckets in the car. one was for human waste, and one was for water. and we traveled with no food, we traveled for 2 1/2 days and we ended up on this platform that you see here. this platform, we arrived in the middle of december, cold, very cold day. actually what you see here is kind of unthreatening, sort of unthreatening but we realized around 11:30 or 12:00 at night, so everything was dark, it was very, very frightening.
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and it was a very frightening crisp night, full of shouting, in german, get out, get out! get out of the cars. and we had to leave our luggage on a big pile and write on this platform. and then we were transported by trucks into the main camp, which was obviously a huge prison camp. and, i am going to stop and explain to you now what was happening here. so, this was a stroke of luck. absolute stroke of luck. we arrived just about at the time when just a few weeks before, apparently, may be several or couple of months before, maybe three months before. the germans were told that
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there is a possibility that the international red cross is going to inspect some of these concentration camps. and they did inspect terezin, the ghetto where we came from. and in a state of panic, the regime set up a new type of it was called the czech family camp because most of us were from czechoslovakia. and historically, if this would have been eight months before or year before, we, most of us, the children, the grandparents and the elderly would have gone from that platform, from this platform directly into the gas chamber. so we would have been killed instantly upon arrival. but because the germans were concerned about the international red cross coming in and by the way we found this
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out after the war. we didn't know this when this was happening. so, because they set up this czech family camp to be able to show the international red cross that the jews are being traded well, that their families are alive, that they are being kept together this is what they set up so this is why we did not go into the gas chamber from the platform but we went directly in to the czech family camp. now in this czech family camp there was already 1000 people there that arrived in september the previous september. that is when the camp was set up. so four months before we got there. and there was another 5000, two transports of 2500, which was our transport, our december transport. so not only is the group of roughly 10,000 people, five and five in the czech family camp. can we happen next slide? so here's what we saw when we
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were approaching the actual camp. literally hundreds and hundreds of yards of barbed wire, full of electricity you couldn't even get close to this fence because it was heavily, high- voltage, electrified. barbed wire. so, with very strong intensity high floodlights. and what this doesn't show is that each main corner where this barbed wire makes return, there is a machine gun post. so there is the power, there's about a 15-20 foot tower on each corner with the guard with a machine gun. so this is a high security prison and when we arrived about a day or so after we arrived, we found out that we were in auschwitz now auschwitz, i found these numbers after the wall.
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and auschwitz birkenau were several chambers where thewere killing people by the thousands in the gas chambers. and there was a total number of people, the estimates are that there was a total number of people, roughly 1.2 million-1.4 million people killed in the auschwitz birkenau complex. next slide? you can see american air force photo, which shows just one part of the auschwitz birkenau complex. and, every one of those little lines that you see, little black lines is a bear, this is where people lived. so, if you have literally hundreds of derricks and it goes on you'd don't see the whole camp. and what is interesting about
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this photo, kind of a good orientation for you is that every two lines of barracks, so every two rows of barracks, typically was one camp. so, imagine that there is a barbed wire between every two of those lines of barracks. and that is what our camps looks like. that's what the czech family camp looked like. we had perhaps 24 or 26 barracks and they were separated, we were separated, female, male, so there was a female section and a male section and upon arrival, we were immediately separated from the women. so, my brother, my father and me, we were in one mail barrick and then my mother ended up in a female section of the
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barracks. of the camp. on the second day, we were taken into the showers, we were shaved, we were given very short haircut, we were tattooed, everybody got a number on their left arm, my number was 100 89,000 zero 57, so you can just tell by the number, basically how many people were in that camp. i was number 169,000. so, we were given some very simple cotton uniforms and we went back into our barrick, we were put onto a terrifically scarce food diet, we were hungry and the get go. we were given, typically two
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pieces of bread a day and maybe two bowls of soup. there was no meat, very few potatoes, no dessert, very little bread and we were starving right from the first day on. there and it was a diet of maybe 800, 700 calories a day which was almost impossible to live on. so, everybody was pretty hungry. and i think the only thing that really saved us was the fact that my brother and i were so young and we didn't require the amount of food that obviously a grown-up wood. and the other thing that help us was that we were not visibly very active. we were pretty much hanging around the barrick, and we did not have to go to work, so we were not physically strained in any way. something very interesting
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happened on about the second day. i decided that i was going to go and visit my mother. and, i walk over into the female section of the camp and found her. and i spent maybe an hour or an hour and a half talking to her. and after i, as i was leaving her barrack , i noticed that there were two little rooms at the end of the barrack and it was typical of every barrack, there were two little rooms as you exit the barrack . and they were typically, i think designed for notetaking, having someone there to intake, track and czech the number of prisons that are in the barrack and how many people have died and how many people have gone
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to duty and how many people returned and so forth. so record-keeping was one of the reasons. but as i look into one of the rooms, as i was walking out, there was a glass window in the door. and as i looked through this glass window, i noticed young woman, very attractive young woman, maybe 21, 22 years old. it looked like she was painting, she had an easel and she was painting a picture. and this really got my attention, because i was interested in art, and i was interested in sketching and drawing. and it really caught my eye, and i was looking at her to try to figure out what is this prisoner doing here? with an easel? and a bunch of watercolors? painting a picture? and she saw me looking at her through the window and she nudged me with her hand to come
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in. and, i went in and introduced myself and she told me that her name was dena and that she was an artist, and that she came from where we did. but she came in the september transport. she came in the double transport that was 2500 people in each transport in september so it was 5000 people. and i found out later that she studied, she was an artist, and she studied art in prague. and i also found out when the ss noticed that she was in artist, found out that she was an artist, they hired her, they assigned her to paint portraits of some of the gypsies that were in the next camp. you may not be aware of this, but gypsies were kind of a
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nomadic group of people that traveled around europe and, they did not fit the nazi concept of who people should be, what they should look like, and basically they did not fit the nazi of what the right person should look like and they basically wanted to eliminate or kill all the gypsies in europe. and they did a pretty good job in accomplishing that. may i have the next slide? so, here's the inside of the barrack , next slide. this is a picture taken by the russians right toward the end of the war when the russians
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walk into auschwitz, this is what typically some of the kids looked like. next slide. so, here is one of the key doctors in auschwitz that found out someone told him all the ss officers told him that he found an artist and her name was dena. and, as soon as doctor mangalore who you see here, he was one of the key doctors in auschwitz, found out that dena could paint and could paint pretty realistically when she wanted to. he assigned her to paint portraits of some of these gypsy women and women that he was going to kill. and so dena, when i walked into her little room, that's what she was doing, she was painting the pictures, the portraits of some of the gypsy women. next slide. so here is one of the portraits
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that she was painting when i met her, and she did a total of maybe 12 or 14 portraits of men and women. and, she, you have to understand this was before color photography and this is when dr. mengele wanted her to be very realistic and very true in terms of detail and because he didn't trust the technology of color photography, or photography technology at the time. so dena was very important to the ss at this point. and i visited dena almost every day or whenever i would visit my mother i would go and say hello to dena and she was always painting. and one day, on the fourth or fifth day, dena said to me that she would like to introduce me
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to her boyfriend whose name was willie, willie brockman was a german prisoner who befriended dena or she befriended him, they became good friends. and willie brockman was very important in the czech family camp. he was the overseer of the czech family camp . he was german, he was not jewish, and this way the ss to deal directly with him, rather than deal with the jewish people in the camp. so he basically was the big kid on the block. he was the big guy on the block and he was in charge of all the jewish prisoners in our camp. and when i met willie brockman, he asked me in german if i was interested in being his messenger. being his sidekick, so to speak. and running messages to the ss and so forth and taking care of
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his clothes and cleaning his shoes and all of this kind of stuff and i said yes. because obviously this put me into a very secure position in the camp. being under the umbrella of willie bruckman. so i worked for willie for several months. and i was able to get better food and better clothing and i could share some of the food with my brother and my father and mother. so i was in a good position because i was working for willie bruckman. well, shortly after we got there, i must tell you, i didn't mention this at this point. but shortly after we got there, i would say within two weeks of when we got there, i realized, me as a child, 12 years old, i realized that this was an extermination camp. we had, there were four crematorium with huge chimneys
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puffing huge amounts of smoke, heavy smoke every day, all day, 24 hours a day. and there were, i knew that there were people arriving at the platform every day and disappearing. and i knew that this was an extermination camp. i could smell the burning of the human bodies, there was ash all around us. if the wind was blowing in the right direction from the crematorium over to the czech family camp, we were literally covered in ash. we were covered in human ash. so, i knew and this is a ,12 now, i knew this was an extermination camp i knew that people were being killed every day. and sure enough, i found out the numbers work horrendous that i found out after the war, of between 5000-6000 people
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every day, just imagine killing 5000 people a day, 50,000 people in 10 days. 100,000 people in 20 days, that's just unbelievable, human murder. so this went on and on and on. and the whole mood of this camp was very threatening, very ugly in every possible way. and what happened after about five or six months after the international red cross visited some of the camps, particularly us. they apparently told the ss, the germans that they planned no further inspections of any of the camps. this is information we got after the war. so what happened in april of
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1944 is the ss decided to terminate and evacuate or kill everybody in the czech family camp. so, the first people that were killed were the people that came in september, the 5000 people that came in september. and they were killed in april of 1944. so suddenly, our camp was half empty, because the ss killed almost with the exception of dena and a few other people, they killed almost everybody that came with dena in september. in july 1944, roughly 4 months later, the ss decided to evacuate, terminate the camp completely. and now there's another 5000 almost 5000 people left, us, that came in december. and so we went through a
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medical inspection in front of dr. mengele and a couple of other ss people. and everybody had to go through what was called a selection. and so legs selection basically meant that you're going to live or you were going to die. you are going to be picked to be a labor to work or you are going to the gas chamber. so, we entered the selection and i, again as a 12-year-old did not realize at that point that this was a life and death scenario. i thought they were just going to go through a medical inspection and maybe the people that were healthy were going to go in one direction, and maybe the sick with end up in a clinic or whatever. but i wasn't absolutely sure that this was a life-and-death scenario. so, i was standing in line with maybe 150-200 people. my brother was right next to me, and my brother was limping.
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my brother had a problem with one of his legs and he was limping. and as soon as dr. mengele saw that he had a limp, he directed him to the left with a group of kids that are on the left side of the table. this was outside, this was july 6, 1944. we were outdoors. and as soon as he saw me and i'm 12 years old at this point, he points me to the left as well. so now i am in a group of children, eight years old, nine years old, five years old, 14 years old, whatever. sick, or little, small, and i'm standing there, not quite still understanding the geometry of who these were and why. and suddenly, out of nowhere comes willie bruckman, the fellow i worked for as an assistant or as a runner, as a worker. as a messenger.
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and he comes from nowhere and this is only, maybe 30 feet, 40 feet from dr. mengele any group of ss people. and really comes to me very quickly and he grabs me by my left shoulder and he shoves me into a group of older children that were on my right. they were about 20 feet to my right. about 80 boys, 14 and 15 years old. and really shove me into this group and disappears. it was then that i just realized that willie bruckman just saved my life. and that my brother is in real trouble, that everybody on the left will probably be killed and everybody on the right is going to survive. so, all of this was happening very fast and very, very in a very confusing way. and i was able to say goodbye to my mother who, by the way
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decided to stay with my brother. she knew that he was doomed and she did not want him to go into the gas chamber by himself, so she decided to go with him to stay with him which i didn't know. i had no idea, i found this out after the war. that she elected to stay with him, because she did not want to desert him. i said goodbye to my father who i thought was also safe because he was a physician and i knew that the ss needed positions to take care of some of the prisoners. and we were now, we were the remaining 85 or 86 boys and myself. we were taken to another not too far from what used to be the czech family. we were taken into a men's camp and my father was transferred into a medical camp, which was not too far away.
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can we have the next slide? here is a picture of some of the children, jewish children that were experimented on. many of these are twins and these are really ugly, very dangerous experiments that the ss were doing on jewish children medical experts. and most of these were headed by dr. mengele. next slide. when my mother realized that she and perhaps a couple thousand other prisoners including my brother, her son were going to be killed, she wrote a letter, a little note to my father who was already in the medical. and she wrote a very nice, very passionate note that was without any anger, without any hatred. she basically said my dearest,
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don't blame yourself for what happens. this was our destiny. we had a good life and she is giving him all kinds of advice about living well and taking care of me really well. and the whole note is very positive and very, very, unthreatening in any way. and, she gave this note to one of the guards and on the cover of the note she wrote doctor grunwald, medical camp, f logger. and the guard took the note and the next day gave it to my dad. my dad had this note to his death in 1967. i basically got hold of the note later and kept it in my house for years and i finally about two years ago gave it to
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the national holocaust museum in washington dc. so if you ever go there, it's on exhibit. it's one of the few artifacts that represents the mental attitude of a prisoner just before they were killed. so my mother and my brother were killed the next day, either the same day or the next day after she wrote this note. on july 11, 1944. to go on with the story, is that i stayed in auschwitz until january 1945. my father left auschwitz in october 1944 and i saw him leave the camp and i was trying to give him, throw some clothing over the fence as he was leaving in a large group of prisoners. and i threw a overcoat over the
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wire fence. i threw a pair of boots that i wanted him to have an eye through those boots over the electric wire. one of the boots got stuck on top of the wire. but anyway, he got the overcoat and he disappeared in the distance in a group of maybe 2000-3000 people. he was shipped to germany, he provided two other camps and he was liberated by the american army in may 1945. can we have the next slide? this is one of the camp commander's of auschwitz. his name is rudolph hess, he was brought in after the war and put in a very good testimony about what happened and auschwitz. he was very, very truthful and what he confessed. and some of the numbers, some of the accurate numbers, gas
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chamber numbers, the record numbers that he quoted were 5000 people were killed every day in the gas chamber. and that was the record but actually the number was higher because they were burning people outside so, the people he couldn't burn in the crematorium, they had to burn outside. can we have the next life? so here you can see an ss photo where the prisoners had to dig these huge ditches outside and they would put the corpses in the ditches and they would pour gasoline on them and they would burn them, the bodies in the ditches. so, basically what happened here was if they were killing say, 7000-8000 people are day in the gas chambers they couldn't burn them in the crematorium because the crematorium could only hold so many people. they would burn them outside so
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this is why the numbers are much higher or can be much higher than just 5000 a day. can we have the next slide, please? we worked, when i was transported to the walk to the next camp, about 15 of the boys and myself had to work and push a cart. in these warehouses that were filled with clothing and this is all prisoner clothing and these people all came from either terezin or some other part of europe. they had to undress, they had to go to the showers or going to the gas chambers, and they left all these clothing behind and had to be cleaned and transported and most of this clothing ended up in germany and was given to the german population. so, we had to transport this clothing from warehouse to warehouse and make all kinds of
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trips with this loaded cart, this wooden cart. next slide. in january 1945 there was a great attempt by the ss to liquidate and evacuate auschwitz. because the russians were coming . the russian army was maybe only 100-150 miles away and they were trying to get all the prisoners, the many prisoners out of auschwitz as possible before the russians came in. so, we left auschwitz, i left auschwitz on a death march like the second week of 1945, january 1945. and, i almost died on the death march because the death march was literally a killer. march, we walked for two and half days without food and water. and we went to the nearest railroad station. and, on the second day i
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started hallucinating, i couldn't walk anymore, i was seeing things that were not real and i was walking with two dentists. two polish dentist that set up with me and took me under their wing. and i was walking in the snow and all i saw was a bunch of dead bodies in the ditch. so every time someone could not walk anymore, the germans would shoot him and throw him in a ditch. so i told these two guys i cannot walk anymore, i'm too tired, i'm too weak. and basically, what they did, they forced me to walk they said no, you have got to walk. they grabbed me by my shoulders and my arms and forced me to walk and i did make it through the death march, we did get on a train. we traveled for two days in an open train, this open hole car trains. and we ended up at this concentration camp in austria after two days and, next slide.
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this was a large camp called mount house in. it was a very large austrian camp and it was not jewish camp it was an international camp. french, belgian, polish, american prisoners, american army prisons, so was very dangerous tremendous amount of disease and hunger, next slide. and one of the famous quarries, stone quarries was there. and many the prisoners had to work in a quarry and died there while working in a quarry cutting stone. next slide. here is a picture taken by the americans when they liberated us in may 1945.
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you can see what everybody looked like, it was just a bunch of skeletons walking around. and sometimes not even walking. next slide. here's a 14-year-old boy, just liberated by the american army. in mount house in. we were literally skin and bones because of hunger. we had virtually no food at all, we had five or 600 casualties a day. next slide. so mount hausen did not have a large enough gas chamber or crematorium , so atmount hausen they would throw the bodies into a big ditch and burned them. next slide., here is the commandant of next slide. when he was caught after the war and executed. by the americans. next slide. so, from mount hausen we removed , after about a week or
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two we were moved to another camp which was called melk. after being melk in fort two or three months, you can see mount hausen in the upper portion of the map. then around the first or second of may 1945, we did another death march all the way from mount hausen down to the left where you see the name wels , and next to that was another town and we were basically walking for two days again, another death march with a lot of people dying on the way. and we ended up there and i
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refer to it as a human dump. literally we were dumped into these woods and the camp was nothing but a bunch of trees surrounded by barbed wire and there was no trees running water, no toilets. so we were in the woods and, we got, the first day we got a bowl of soup and a piece of bread. in the second day, we got up bowl of bread and a piece of soup so now we are looking to at least another piece of bread and a bowl of soup. and the third day we get nothing. on the fourth day, we get nothing. and this is now may 3, 1945. and we sleeping out in the woods and there's basically nothing but dead bodies all around us. and we're just trying to survive and, we have no food,
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no water and the third day in the fourth day. the fifth day, i wake up outside to machine gun fire. i hear around 5:30, 6 in the morning. i hear this machine gun fire and i thought right away they must shooting the prisoners. this is what it is. because i have no idea where the army was the american army was at this point. so i'm thinking they must be shooting the prisoners and about half an hour later, i noticed that three or four guards, military guards, these ss people are just military guards, they were standing in a huddle and holding a white sheet. and i'm sort of half awake, half asleep and i'm terribly weak, not having any water or food for two or three days. and i'm looking at these guards and they are holding
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this white sheet and i'm realizing that these people are really in trouble, they are giving up. and within about two or three minutes within that, i saw the first american g.i. walk into the camp. so i realized then that for me, at least the war was over. we were taken to the nearest town by truck, the americans took us through the town of pershing which was a little town outside the town of wels , maybe a few miles from this camp. and we were put up in a school, so there was about 20-30 kids, young boys that were put up in school. and we had no way of getting home. we were given food, we were given clothing, we were able to take showers and basically, recovering in this little town of pershing. and three of the boys decided
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that they will jump the train and try to go to prague by train. we were not sure that they were going to make it but they did, they made it to prague and two of them ended up in a hospital in prague. when my father got to prague in germany, about two weeks earlier, he found out that there were two kids in the hospital that czech in from austria. so he drove to the hospital , he interrogated those two boys and they were the two boys that jumped the train. they told him where i was, that i was in pershing in this public school near the hersing public school and he drove to hersing and that is where got reunited with my dad. we returned back to prague. we eventually got back to our apartment in prague and my dad
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practiced medicine for three or four years. i went back to high school, to junior high and basically they tried to restart our lives. and then after the communist took over the country in 1948, my dad who had remarried by that time, decided to escape from the communist czechoslovakia. and we escaped to austria and then from austria, we got papers to emigrate to england. so we ended up in england in 1949. and from england, we eventually came to this country in 1951. next slide. so, here is a picture of the small camp, the human dump that i referred to which was the last camp that i was in. and this is what the american soldiers saw when they walked in. there were a bunch of bodies,
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you don't quite know who is alive and who is dead. most of these people are dead. next slide. this is after the war, this is dena, the artist that introduced me to willie bruckman who saved my life. dena, this was taken, this is dena and her mother after the war, this was taken in france. and she eventually immigrated to the united states and worked for disney as an illustrator. and she passed away about 10 years ago, eight or nine years ago in san francisco. next slide. this is my brother and i i am about five years old in this picture. my brother is about nine. next slide. my mother and i come again i am about 5 in this picture. next slide. my father, the doctor, next
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slide. this is me after the war, about three months after the war. and basically. so, i don't know if you have any questions, but this is basically the end of my presentation. thank you. [ applause ] >> we have about 10 minutes, so i think we have got some questions. first of all, i would like to take the time to thank you for being here with us, not only did you lose your mom, but you also lost her brother. in the letter it says time heals. i have heard this a lot. with your experience, do feel that this is true?? could you repeat that? >> not only did you lose your
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mom but you also lost her brother. >> yes. >> in the letter it said time heals. i have heard this a lot. with your experience, do you feel that this statement is true? that time heals? >> that is true? >> yeah, do you feel that that is true? >> okay, i'm sorry, i didn't hear the, no, it doesn't heal. it's true, it's partially true it doesn't, it's a difficult question. is partially true. it doesn't heal everything. there is an interesting mental scenario that i go through every day, almost every day. and that is that the flashback, what i call the flashbacks
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where i will see a mother with two children and i immediately recognize the fact that see how lucky these kids are? these 15 or 16-year-old boys are and girls to have a mother who i lost when i was 12. so, there is these flashbacks oh, i see somebody at a soccer game that is covered by an army blanket because it's a cold day and are now watching a soccer match. and i immediately flashback to the one army blanket that i had in auschwitz that i was covering myself with and the one army blanket that my father had and i was tucking him in because i wanted to make sure that there was no air coming through anywhere, because it was so cold in auschwitz. so, i made see somebody eating
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a black pumpernickel bread and that is the same kind of bread that we were given in auschwitz and in mount hausen, so right away it flashes back to mount hausen or auschwitz. so these flashbacks are prevalent and they come back almost every day. and sometimes five times a day, sometimes 10 times a day. so it's very difficult to forget what we went through or what other people went through. it's a great question, by the way. great question. is it working? >> i molly mingle and i'm a senior here and my question is how do you feel this letter impacted learning about the holocaust today? >> a letter? >> yes.
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>> well, it's relevant, you know it's relevant, but the letter, you know the letter doesn't really, my mother's letter doesn't really directly attack or blame or, if not a direct reference to the holocaust. it's more of, i think it's more of a reference to the strength, the inner strength that the individuals need to have in order to overcome punishment and abuse and unfairness. so, it really doesn't attack the holocaust, it really talks to human attitude and strength, more than the holocaust itself. which, i think it's the good part of the letter, the great
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part of the letter. >> i agree, thank you. >> tanks. >> hi, my name
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