#Holocaust Remembrance Day – “The message of Auschwitz is so much larger than the horror, the horror

On this day in 1945 at 9:00am, the first Russian soldier of the 100th Infantry Division of the 106th Corps arrives in Monowitz (one of the camps connected to the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex). Of the 850 sick prisoners in Monowitz infirmary more than 200 have died by the time they are liberated on Jan 27.

The task of liberating Auschwitz-Birkenau falls to the 60th Army of the 1st Ukrainian Front where they find “7,000 sick and exhausted prisoners… 4,000 of whom are women.” On the same day that Auschwitz is liberated, however, 2,000 female prisoners from the death march finally arrive at Ravensbruck. The last transports from Auschwitz-Birkenau arrive at Mauthausen with 6,025 prisoners, and there are still 3,000 women on the death march for what will end up being 185 miles and does not end until the beginning of February (Source Czech 801-805). These are the facts of this day, and yet what I urge us to do is look for some deeper meaning in this madness.

We have to put the horror into some kind of meaningful context or it becomes too overwhelming to comprehend or even digest.  It has taken me years to find a way to do that, but I am convinced both by the survivors I have been honored to know and write about and by my own journey to Auschwitz, that the message of Auschwitz is so much larger than the horror, the horror.

The way I am able to fathom Auschwitz, without being completely undone by its atrocities, is to see a larger message than the one of death. What I believe is the deeper message of Auschwitz is Life.  This is our challenge–to honor every moment of every day, and to live our lives to their fullest. Don’t waste a single moment. Make your life something to be proud of to herald. The message of Auschwitz is a message to stand for your convictions. Be courageous. Act morally. To remember that every single act of kindness counts. Even something as small as giving a potato to a Jew was an act of moral courage.

Rena—the 716 woman in Auschwitz—wanted us to know the facts of the camps, which is why I have started this blog, but even more than the day to day facts,  she wanted us to know the names of every single person who helped she and her sister survive. International Holocaust Remembrance Day is a day to acknowledge the attempted genocide of Jews, Gypsies, Poles, and Homosexuals, but it is also day to remember our armed forces, the soviet armed forces who liberated Auschwitz, the French resistance, the Polish resistance, all the brave men and women who risked their lives to fight fascism. It is a day to remember the incredible beauty of the human spirit to survive and help each other.

Shalom, Heather Dune Macadam

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75 Years Ago Today – Oswiecim, Poland and Auschwitz


What was it like three days before the Russians arrived to liberate Auschwitz and the town of Oswiecim from the occupation of Nazi-Germany? We know that as the Russian front neared, the fighting neared too. The Wehrmacht was shooting prisoners who tried to escape from Birkenau and were still locked inside the camp. Did stray bullets terrorize the town’s people, as well? Was it like Syria or Sarajevo?

It seems so peaceful here now, so hard to imagine… and yet there is no Jewish population left in this town. I am find myself questioning how this town and its people continue to work and live in the shadow of this immense crater of Auschwitz. I am too tired to wax eloquent tonight but I am pondering this thought and others as I explore this town and get to know it and its people better.  Meanwhile, I have posted this on YouTube to show you the town of Oswiecim and the only synagogue left that was not destroyed.

 

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75 Years Ago Today – January 21, 1945 – Before Liberation of Auschwitz

Death March art

DEATH MARCH: The residents of Polish towns through which the prisoners are marched recover the corpses of 1,101 male and female prisoners, and bury them in 29 mass graves along the route (see Friday’s “vlog” as we retrace this route and visit these memorial sites).

The first columns of women to reach Wodzislaw are loaded into open freight cars from morning to late into the night—Rena and her sister Danka may have been among those first women who arrive “half-dead, unconscious and feverish.” These transports move further into the interior of Germany to Gross-Rosen (which is re-routed to Dachau—67 of 1,408 prisoners on that transport die on route or upon arrival), Sachsenhausen (1/4 of these prisoners die enroute), Ravensbruck and Buchenwald. Rena and her sister were on the transport to Ravensbruck.

BIRKENAU: Five female prisoners attempt to escape from the women’s camp in Birkenau. They are detained by a drunken SS man, who take the youngest woman into the guard room. Shots ring out and the woman flees, having killed the SS. She and her friends hide in a railroad car and return to the women’s camp.

Prisoners break into the SS storerooms and discover that there is enough food to last for several months. Those left behind immediately form groups and break into the storeroom. They load two butchered hogs, cans of preserved meat, condensed milk, noodles, etc. in wheelbarrows and put the kitchen in Birkenau back into operation to feed the prisoners still locked behind the electric gates of Birkenau.

With the absence of all SS in the camps, tension lessens but liberation is still days away, and the death march continues for over 30,000 prisoners, many of whom are marched 50 kilometers to Wodzislaw in Silesia through blizzard conditions and with no food or water.

(Source: Czech, 795-797)

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75 Years Ago Today – Jan 22, 1945 #Holocaust #History #Liberation

Death March art3 1Death March: Prisoners continue to arrive in German camps and the last columns of prisoners on the death march from Auschwitz arrive in Wodzislaw Slaski–2,223 prisoners that arrive in Buchenwald, after being left in open air freight cars  the night before. Another group of 4,000 prisoners aare transported to Mauthausen but the transport is not accepted by Mauthausen and redirected to Nordhausen—of the 4,000 prisoners on the transport 500 die enroute.

In Birkenau: 80 male and female prisoners attempt to break out of camp at 9:00 a.m. The Wehrmacht fires at them; only ten make it back to camp. The rest are killed. Around midday, another group of male and female prisoners with children attempt to leave camp and an SS man allows them to go to the train station. Several of them reach the town of Oswiecim safely. (Czech 797-798)

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