Breaking Silence, Survivor Sets Out to Meet Holocaust Past

MULTYFARNHAM, Ireland — The setting could hardly have been more incongruous. Outside the window, lush pastures spread in the perfection of a late winter morning. Inside, a small man with a yellow star pinned to his sweater captivated an audience with the horrors of his boyhood in the concentration camp called Bergen-Belsen.

The man, Tomi Reichental, described seeing his grandmother’s body being thrown onto a cart overloaded with other corpses. He was only 9 years old. By that age, he had already experienced arrest and beatings by the Gestapo; the glow of the crematories through the cracks of the cattle car that took him to Bergen-Belsen; the assault of the spotlights; the shouts and the dogs as his family was hauled from the train; the scavenging for food; and the sight and smell of the piles of decaying dead.

It is never easy to hold the attention of hundreds of teenagers, but for a couple of hours Mr. Reichental did with his compelling story. He will be 80 on June 26, and with his companion, Joyce, at his side he drives around the country giving talks to schools twice a week. He is fully booked for the rest of 2015.

“People tell me I’m the fittest Holocaust survivor alive today,” he said, smiling.

The pupils here at Wilson’s Hospital School were the latest to fall under his spell. Even the self-styled tough guys hung on every harrowing word.

[…]

It was mid-October 1944 when he was rounded up by the Gestapo in a shop in Bratislava, now the capital of Slovakia. For nearly 60 years, he never spoke about his experiences in Bergen-Belsen. He never even told his wife of more than 40 years or their three sons. But after her death in 2003 and his retirement from the Dublin jewelry business he owned, he has hardly stopped talking about what happened.

[…]

He tells of how his idyllic village childhood was shattered when Slovakia became a puppet state of Germany, and in 1942 the regime began to deport its entire Jewish population, the vast majority of whom would perish in death camps.

A couple of weeks after he, his brother, mother and grandmother were finally captured by the Gestapo — after evading the Nazis for two years — they were forced into a cattle car on a freezing November day. He believes the train was diverted to Bergen-Belsen only because the Nazis had been forced to destroy the crematories in Auschwitz and Birkenau that very week ahead of a Soviet advance.

“It was sheer good fortune,” he said. “A few days earlier I wouldn’t be here now. Like so many others in my family, I would have surely been killed in Auschwitz.”

His father was captured separately but escaped and joined local partisans. […]

Source:
DOUGLAS DALBY MARCH 14, 2015
nytimes.com/2015/03/15/world/breaking-silence-survivor-sets-out-to-meet-holocaust-past.html


Webmaster note: Yeah, those destroyed killing centers were so awful that they kept killing even after being destroyed! And did you catch the part about the cart of dead corpses at Bergen-Belsen, where more people died after liberation than before liberation? What a shock that even as Germany was collapsing under the weight of Allied military attacks, it failed to provide for concentration camp prisoners that which it could not provide even for its citizens.