Auschwitz Survivors: Stories about working inside the Nazi camp and amazing escapes.
Latest hand-picked WWII news.
Jewish schoolgirl Helga Weiss escaped the clutches of Nazi Angel of Death Josef Mengele and survived Auschwitz
When Jewish schoolgirl Helga Weiss was ordered off the train at Auschwitz in 1944, she was destined for death in the gas chambers - along with all the others considered too young or too old to work. But instead of being killed, Helga managed to convince "Angel of Death" doctor Josef Mengele she was older and fit to work. Almost 70 years after she gave one of the most feared Nazis the slip, the story of the Czech teenager - now a celebrated artist - is to be told for the first time in a new book.
Holocaust survivor Noah Flug, board member at Yad Vashem, united survivors in push for benefits
Holocaust survivor Noah Flug, a board member at Yad Vashem who was active in lobbying for compensation for Holocaust survivors from Germany, has passed away at 86. Flug was born in 1925 in Lodz, Poland. During the Second World War he lived in the Lodz Ghetto, where he did forced labor and took part in the youth underground. Flug was sent to Auschwitz in 1944 and from there to the Gross-Rosen concentration camp. From there it was the death march to Mauthausen, where he was rescued by U.S. troops weighing 32 kilograms.
Nazis' grandchildren: Rainer Hoess, grandson of Rudolf Hoess, was beaten by an Auschwitz survivor
Rainer Hoess was just 12 years old when he found out his grandfather was one of the worst mass murderers in history. The gardener at his boarding school, an Auschwitz survivor, beat him black and blue after hearing he was the grandson of Rudolf Hoess, commandant of the Nazi death camp. "He beat me because he projected on me all the horror he went through. Once a Hoess, always a Hoess. Whether you're the grandfather or the grandson, guilty is guilty."
Similarly, Ursula Boger found out during her university years that her grandfather was the most dreaded torturer at Auschwitz.
Holocaust survivor Susan Cernyak-Spatz recalls "life" in the Auschwitz-Birkenau
Before arriving at Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1943, Susan Cernyak-Spatz spent years as a refugee, moving several times to escape the grip of the Nazi regime. At the notorious camp, each day was a lesson in survival and in dehumanization, which included receiving nazi tattoo, being stripped naked, shaved and given a bowl out of which to eat, drink and relieve herself.
It was essential to find a top bunk because when guards didn't empty buckets of urine at night, prisoners would be forced to use their bowls, which they emptied beside their bunks, meaning that the person underneath got it on the head.
"The minute we received our tattoos there was no past and no future. Prisoners would be so mentally and physically dehumanized they would be eager to get into the gas. Dying was no art."
"If anybody who survived the Holocaust says the experience heightened their religion they're lying. When I came out of the camp I could not believe in any God, it simply was not possible. I refuse and reject a God that watched over the Holocaust."
Auschwitz inmate put on a stolen SS uniform and marched out with his sweetheart
With every step toward the gate, Jerzy Bielecki was certain he would be shot. The day was July 21, 1944, and he was walking in broad daylight down a pathway at Auschwitz in a stolen SS uniform with his Jewish sweetheart Cyla Cybulska by his side. "I felt pain in my backbone, where I was expecting to be shot." His knees buckling with fear, he tried to keep a stern bearing on the long stretch of gravel to the sentry post. The Nazi guard looked disapprovingly at his forged pass and eyed the two for a period that felt like an eternity - then said: Ja, danke and let Jerzy and Cyla out of the death camp.
Auschwitz dance video by a Holocaust survivor and his family spark outrage
Jane Korman, a Jewish artist who lives in Ashwood (Melbourne), posted video of her Holocaust survivor father Adolk and her 3 children dancing to "I Will Survive" inside the Auschwitz death camp. Although first showed at a Monash University gallery in Caulfield December 2009 and published on YouTube in January 2010, the Dancing Auschwitz video has gone viral recently - sparking outrage. The video shows the Korman family dancing in front of the Auschwitz sign 'Arbeit Macht Frei', a Polish synagogue, Dachau and Theresienstadt concentration camps, and a memorial in Lodz to victims of the Nazi ghetto.
How liberated Auschwitz survivors were assaulted by Red Army soldiers
When liberation came, it came quickly. One night in January 1945 inmates at Auschwitz-Birkenau were awoken by an explosion. The Nazis, about to leave, had blown up the crematoria, for fear that the Soviet Army would discover them. At the time millions of civilians were travelling to escape from the Soviet advance. And the liberated Auschwitz survivors joined that migration. One of them was Helena Citronova, who soon learned that Soviet soldiers lurked in the darkness: "They were... totally drunk. Red Army soldiers looked for cute girls... There were cases where they were raped to death."
Biography of Witold Pilecki - who volunteered to be sent to Auschwitz - published in Italy
"A Volunteer" by Marco Patricelli is a biography of Witold Pilecki, one of the little known heroes of World War II. In 1940 Witold Pilecki allowed himself to be arrested by the Nazis and sent to Auschwitz, where he formed a conspiracy among the inmates to cause a revolt in the camp. He was the author of the first report on the murder of Jews that was passed over to the Allies. After 3 years in Auschwitz, Pilecki escaped, reached Warsaw, joined the Home Army's intelligence department and formed a secret organization within the Home Army to prepare resistance against a possible Soviet occupation.
Hungry Soviet liberators ate horse meat and threw bones to the survivors - Children recall Auschwitz liberation
On Jan. 17, 1945 - 10 days before the Red Army liberated the camp - the Nazis forced 60,000 inmates into the Death March. "I was too weak to go," says Kazimiera Wasiak, one of the 7,000 people left to die. She remembers a Soviet recon unit entering the camp before Jan 27, when the arrival of the Red Army front marked the camp's liberation. "They were... very hungry. The troops set up a field kitchen... They were eating horse meat and we, like dogs, begged them to give us a little and they 'played' with us, throwing the bones... We fetched them and chewed them," Wasiak recalls, holding back tears.
Auschwitz survivor Eva Mozes Kor shares her story with a classroom
Eva Mozes Kor and her twin sister Miriam spent 9 months in the Auschwitz eating 300 calories per day and being injected with mysterious substances as part of medical experiments. The 10-year-olds slept on bunk beds with rats, while human corpses were on the restroom floor. "I refused to die. I kept telling myself, I must survive." After 9 months of being used as "guinea pigs", Kor saw a glimmer of hope in the form of a plane with an American flag on it. The experiments stopped by January 1945 - But danger was still all around, because the Nazis wanted "to eliminate all the evidence."
Auschwitz survivor, "treated" by Josef Mengele, refused to visit a doctor for 64 years
When Yitzhak Ganon came around from the anaesthetic at the hospital near Tel Aviv, he was told that he had only one kidney. "I know, the last time I saw the other one it was pulsating in the hand of Josef Mengele. He was a doctor too," he replied. Ganon revealed to his amazed family why he had never visited a doctor since he was freed from Auschwitz death camp in 1945. None of them knew of his suffering there at the hands of Angel of Death. "He cut into me, without drugs. The pain was indescribable. I felt every slice of the knife. Then I saw my kidney pulsating in his hand. I cried like a madman."
British soldier Denis Avey smuggled himself into Auschwitz
Millions would have done anything to get out, but one British soldier smuggled himself into Auschwitz death camp to witness the horror so he could tell others the truth. Denis Avey was captured by the Germans and imprisoned in a camp attached to the largest Nazi concentration camp, Auschwitz. He wanted to witness what was going on inside and find out the truth about the gas chambers. He knows he took "a hell of a chance". He set up a swap with a Jewish inmate he trusted. He exchanged his uniform for the filthy, stripy clothes the man had to wear. He describes Auschwitz as "hell on earth. It was so impersonal. Auschwitz was evil, everything about it was wrong."
Auschwitz survivor donates jewelry he discovered while sorting victims' clothes
A Holocaust survivor donated 7 pieces of jewelry and other items from Auschwitz victims to Yad Vashem. Meyer Hack snatched them away from the Nazis while working as a slave laborer at the death camp. He found rings, watches, and bracelets while working in the "clothing chamber," where he would find pieces of jewelry that the deportees had hidden in the linings of their clothing. Hack hid them in a hole behind his barrack, so that they could not be melted down by the Nazis and used for their war machine. Before the camp was freed by the Russians in 1945, Hack was forced on two death marches, but managed to get hold of the items and keep them in a sock.
Sequential Auschwitz Tattoo numbers bring together two survivors
As panic-struck teenagers Menachem Sholowicz and Anshel Sieradzki stood one ahead of the other in Auschwitz, having serial numbers tattooed on their arms. Sholowicz was B-14594; Sieradzki was B-14595. The two had never met, they never spoke and they were soon separated. Each survived the Nazi death camp and moved to Israel. They didn't meet again until having stumbled upon each other through the Internet. The unlikely reunion began when Sholowicz's daughter discovered a site that told Sieradzki's odyssey. It struck her as spookily similar to her father's. "We are blood brothers," said Sieradzki.
Witold Pilecki, an officer in the Polish resistance, volunteered to be sent to Auschwitz
On Sept. 19, 1940, Witold Pilecki got himself arrested by the Nazis and sent to Auschwitz. Once he got inside Auschwitz, he set up an underground organization (ZOW) of officials, guards and prisoners, to smuggle intelligence out, improve morale and provide organization in the case of a camp takeover. April 26, 1943, Pilecki and two other men took advantage of an off-camp assignment and escaped. After a few days of travel they made it to the base of a Polish Home Army unit. Pilecki attempted to convince the Home Army and other Allied forces to attack the camp, but his reports that millions were being killed in the camp were viewed as an exaggeration.
Auschwitz Sonderkommando Henryk Mandelbaum collected gold teeth
Henryk Mandelbaum, who was forced by the Nazis to collect valuables and gold teeth from Jews after they were gassed at Auschwitz, passed away. Historian Igor Bartosik has co-authored an upcoming book on Mandelbaum - an Auschwitz-Birkenau inmate number 181970. He was Poland's last living member of a Sonderkommando - group of prisoners who handled the bodies of those who were gassed and burned. "He saw people going into the changing rooms... he saw the moment of the gassing, the throwing of the Zyklon B gas into the gas chambers, he heard the screams."
Escape from Auschwitz - Episode from the Secrets of the Dead series
From their hiding place outside the fence of the Auschwitz death camp, Rudolph Vrba and Alfred Wetzler heard the scream of a prisoner being sent to the gas chamber in revenge for their breakout: "Avenge us!" But that would not be so easy. And a heroic escape from the Nazis that might have saved hundreds of thousands instead slid into frustration. State-sponsored mass murder was once so inconceivable that the world rejected the very possibility, even when faced by eyewitnesses. Worse yet, Rudolph Kastner, head of Hungary's Jewish underground, suppressed the report of it, worried that it would derail his talks to ransom a million Jews from the Nazis.
Leon Greenman, the only Englishman in the Auschwitz death camp, died at 97
A Holocaust survivor believed to have been the only Englishman in the Auschwitz death camp has died aged 97. London-born Leon Greenman was living in Rotterdam with his Dutch wife and son when the family were gathered by the Nazis in 1943 - after his friend panicked and destroyed his passport. Greenman, author of "An Englishman in Auschwitz", was one of 700 Dutch Jews moved to the camp in 1943 but of the group just he and one other man made it. After finding out his wife and son had been gassed, he devoted his life to educating people about the holocaust. Greenman got an OBE in 1998 for his work against racism.
Auschwitz inmate Meyer Hack collected diamond rings and gold watches
In a nazi camp created to destroy people Meyer Hack refused to be dehumanized. He tied a cord around his neck and pulled it before inspections, rushing blood to his head and hiding his yellow, jaundiced skin. As a laundry worker at the Auschwitz, he found valuables that gave him hope (diamond rings, gold watches, large emeralds) that he recovered from the seized clothes of inmates. On Jan. 20 he will display the collection in Watertown. To Hack, the gold coins and other items he found symbolized a return to humanity. "You find some gold, you fished it out. So you find one, two pieces; you were desperate for more and more and more."
Auschwitz-Birkenau slave laborer recalls loading corpses in ovens
Shlomo Venezia was a slave laborer in the crematoriums at Auschwitz-Birkenau. For 8 months in 1944, he loaded the corpses into the Nazi ovens - 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, corpse after corpse until it became a mechanical task. In "Sonderkommando Auschwitz" he provides an unblinking account of the Nazi death machine. He remembers the day he met his father's emaciated cousin in an undressing room at the gas chambers. He offered him the only consolation possible, some sardines and a lie that the Zyklon B would kill him quickly. "It was just terrible to have to lie, but there was no way around it. I tried in some way to make the horrible situation easier."
Auschwitz witness set to speak - Nazi Dr. Josef Mengele
Eva Kor and twin Miriam survived the experiments of Nazi Dr. Josef Mengele. She brings message of forgiveness to Brenau in an event highlighted by the documentary "Forgiving Dr. Mengele." Some 1,400 pairs of twins died as a result of experiments. Eva's path to forgiveness began after her sister's death. She flew to Germany to meet with Hans Munch, who had worked alongside Josef Mengele. In 1995, Kor brought him to Auschwitz. There Kor declared "In my own name, I forgive all Nazis." She stood by the comment even though it horrified others. Her faded tattoo A-7063, is still visible on her left arm.
Auschwitz escapee who provided the first eyewitness evidence
Rudolf Vrba, who as a young man escaped from Auschwitz and provided the first eyewitness evidence not only of the magnitude of the tragedy unfolding at the death camp but also of the exact mechanics of Nazi mass extermination, died. His greatest importance is as an author of diagrams of gas chambers and crematories. With specificity gained from camp tasks that gave him unusual access to various corners of Auschwitz, Dr. Vrba told the unknown truth about it. The report became known as the Auschwitz Protocol. When parts of it were released in the summer of 1944, the US government endorsed it as true.