#HolocaustMemorialDay – Never Before Told Story of Missing Girl on 1st Transport to Auschwitz

Adelka Gross was 17 when she disappeared on the First Transport to Auschwitz. For 70 years her family had no idea what happened to her, until now.

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Rena’s Promise @HayFestival w/Sarah Crompton of The Telegraph

Wonderful opportunity and brilliant audience at Hay with Sarah Crompton (The Telegraph) about the new edition of Rena’s Promise, and the first Jewish women in Auschwitz.

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70th Anniversary of Liberation after 3 Years in Nazi Death Camps

Screen Shot 2015-05-01 at 3.12.06 PM“They looked like angels.” That is how the soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division appeared to Rena Kornreich, 70 years ago today. After spending more than three years of her young adult life in Nazi death camps, we can understand how her liberators might appear as if they were heaven sent, despite being dressed in khaki.  Who were those men who liberated the Holocaust survivor I was such dear friends with?

On this 70th anniversary I decided to find out more about the 82nd Airborne, who liberated Rena and her sister Danka.  Did you know that the 82nd Airborne was among the first divisions to paratroop into occupied France? According to several internet sources they fought a record “33 days of bloody combat” after the allies invaded the coast of Normandy. Rena would not see these courageous men for ten more months–in that time she would be death marched from Auschwitz to Ravensbruck and then transported further into the interior, where it was starvation that was killing prisoners, not gas chambers. Finally, on May 2, 1945, the Americans arrived and liberated two concentration camps: Wöbbelin and Neüstadt Glewe. Rena, her sister and Dina (their best friend from childhood) were in the latter.

According to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Wöbbelin was an appalling sight with a mound of one-thousand men who had died of starvation. Disgusted, the officers ordered the townspeople of Ludwigslust to walk through the camp and see the horror outside their front doors. Then they forced them to bury the dead. General Dwight D. Eisenhower had mandated “all atrocity victims to be buried in a public place.” In accordance with that policy, the 82nd Airborne made sure that crosses honored Christian graves and the Stars of David honored Jewish graves. (It is amazing to me that anyone can deny the Holocaust when our own soldiers witnessed these atrocities.)

The moment the healthy male prisoners of Wöbbelin were freed they led the Americans to the women’s camp down the road. Using wire cutters to cut the electrical and barbed wires fences, they freed the girls, who ran through the fence, cutting their hands and tearing their clothes on the loose wire to hug strangers. Each other. The free earth beneath their feet. Rena, who had survived almost three years in Auschwitz itself had never seen anything more beautiful than the American soldiers who liberated them…. to find out the rest of this wonderful story you have to read Rena’s Promise ;)

Happy 70th Anniversary, Rena.

The 82nd Airborne Division was recognized as a liberating unit by the US Army’s Center of Military History and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1991.” Source: U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

Always Believe. Never Forget.

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70th Anniversary Liberation of Ravensbruck

April 30, 1945: 3,000 women are finally liberated from Ravensbruck Women’s Death Camp by the Russian army. A few days earlier (April 27-28) all able bodied women were forced on a death march (for many this was their 2nd march). For survivors of the Auschwitz death march in January  coming to Ravensbruck had been exacerbated by lack of food, shelter and sanitary conditions. Some of the women were left outside in makeshift tents. Overcrowding lead to increased exterminations, especially of Jewish women.

For Rena and her sister Danka (#1716 and #2779 in Auschwitz) being transported out of Ravensbruck a few days after they arrived from Auschwitz may have saved their lives. The camp of Neustadt Glewe was a satellite camp of Ravensbruck and  the notorious Margot Drexler (SS from Auschwitz) was its Wardress but Neustadt Glewe was not a “death” camp. Women died of starvation, beatings, illness but there was no gas chamber, which for women arriving from Auschwitz saw as a huge relief.

The war was going to end in a few days. Male prisoners across the road shouted “the Americans are coming!” to Rena and her sister, as they headed out to their work detail. “Freedom Soon!” For some “soon” would not be soon enough. For Rena and her sister “soon” was in the knick of time.

Photos from Vintage Everyday http://www.vintag.es/ facebook.com/the.vintage.everyday https://twitter.com/vintag_es

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