Auschwitz Survivors Fight to Keep Memory Alive Despite ‘Opening Wounds’
JERUSALEM–A museum painting of a barefoot girl holding up a pair of shoes led Bracha Ghilai to break a half century of silence about what befell her in Auschwitz.
In Auschwitz death was always close and survival depended on fluke.
Ghilai said she survived one “selection” — when the Nazis weeded out the weak and sick for extermination — by pleading with a fellow inmate to open a barracks window when she was running a temperature. She crawled through the window to safety.
Like all children too young to work, 10-year-old Martha Weiss was selected for death when she arrived at Auschwitz in 1944 but the Soviet army was approaching and the SS diverted her group from the gas chamber after Soviet planes flew over. She said she and her older sister Eva spent their last month in camp doctor Josef Mengele’s notorious experimental ward.
“He would tell little children to sit on his lap and tell them to call him ‘uncle,’ ‘uncle Mengele’ and sometimes give them a sweet and in the same tone of voice that he said ‘I’m uncle Mengele’ he would tell the officials to give them a lethal injection,” Weiss said.
“So when he approached my sister, I threw myself on him. I had enough sense to know that it was dangerous but he happened to be in a good mood and it didn’t matter to him if he killed Eva Weiss or whether he killed the next person, so she survived.”
The Nazis began evacuating Auschwitz 10 days before the Soviets arrived, forcing some 60,000 prisoners into the Polish forests on “death marches” during which many thousands were murdered or died of cold, hunger and exhaustion.
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Webmaster note: Interesting that there was danger inside the barrarks, but safety outside, where presumably she wasn’t supposed to have been, in the heart of an “extermination camp.”