The Holocaust was the deadliest genocide in history, recording the extreme atrocities by human beings against mankind under the infamous regime of Adolf Hitler and his notorious Nazi party. About six million men, women, and children, all European Jews, were systematically killed through state-sponsored firing squads, concentration camps, and gassing by filling the gas chambers with toxic HCN, hydrogen cyanide, released by a pesticide called Zyklon-B. The Jews were brought to the concentration camps. After being sorted out, the able-bodied were sent for slave labor and forced to work till exhausted and starved to death. The weaker Jews were sent to the gas chambers naked under the pretext of a shower for disinfection and then gassed in the cruelest type of death. About two million of them were Jewish men, three million Jewish women, and about a million were the children, many of whom were subjected to the worst, torturous medical experiments like laboratory test animals. The word ‘Holocaust’ has been derived from ‘holo’ meaning ‘whole’ and ‘caust’ meaning ‘burning.’ Or, in other words, it meant total elimination. The Germans called it ‘The Final Decision.’
1. Shep Zitler
Shep Zitler was born in Vilnius, Lithuania on May 27, 1917. Currently a salesman, he was a soldier and prisoner of war. He has a son and in recalling his ordeal said, ‘There were 10 of us who stayed together for the entire 5 years and 7 months of our captivity. We had been through hell.’ Shep Zitler feels proud of his being from Vilnius, the land of the Jews’ Diaspora, or the Immigrant Jews. Near the end of the war, he and his ten companions were made to march for three days without any break and then asked to lie down as the soldiers slept. They were finally free. One of them died after eating after a long time of starvation in the village they first they found themselves in. Zitler says, ‘I divide Hitler’s reign into 2 parts: 6 years, 1933 to 1939, and 6 years, 1939 to 1945. From 1933 to 1939, Hitler was building, building, building, and from 1939 to 1945 he was killing, killing, killing.’
2. Eva Galler
Eva Galler was born in Olezyce, a small city in Poland, comprised of only 7,000 families, and half of them were Jews. She was born on January 1, 1924. She escaped from a death train and recalls her father, Israel Vogel, saying to her, ‘Run, run. Maybe you will stay alive. We will stay here with the small children, because even if they get out, they will not be able to survive. You run; I know you will stay alive. You have the Belzer Rebbe’s blessing.’ Her father was a very religious person and was head of the Jewish religious community, Kehillah. She jumped out of the train falling onto a bank of snow. Her brother and sister too jumped, but she found them dead. She could not speak out of fear for years.
3. Solomon Radasky
Solomon Radasky was born to Jacob and Toby in Warsaw, Poland on May 17, 1910 and died on August 4, 2002 at the age of 92. He was the only survivor out of his 78 relatives. His mother and sister were killed by Germans when she could not give them gold and fur on their demand because she told them she had none. His father was shot dead by a German when he saw him with bread. He was selected for being killed, but his life was spared on account of his being skillful at sewing fur.
4. Isak Borenstein
Isak Borenstein was born in Radom, Poland on May 5, 1918. He was a carpenter and was made a prisoner of war. He has one son. In 1941 when Hitler invaded Russia, he joined the Russian Army and was made a prisoner of war. He was put into the death chamber about 6 feet wide and 25 feet long with only 1 brick removed for breathing. His brother told him that the Germans came to their home to take him but, not finding him, they caught another boy named Borenstein and interrogated him. When he could not tell of my whereabouts, he was shot dead in front of his home.
5. Joseph Sher
Joseph Sher was born to Simon and Felicia in a little town KrKrzepice in Poland on July 27, 1917. The family moved to the city of Czestochowa, and the Germans came there. They announced through placards that every Jew between 15 and 80 years was required to assemble in the market. Sher was afraid and hid in the attic preferring to die there. The people in the market were asked to lie face down in the street, and every tenth person was shot dead. It was only then they came to know what and who was Hitler. He was assigned to work to a build a highway. Out of 1,000 workers only 3 survived, and he was 1 of those 3.
6. Jeannine Burk
Jeannine Burk was born in Brussels, Belgium on September 15, 1939. She recalls that she was taken by her father to some underground network to hide her. That was the last time she saw her father. The family never mistreated her but never loved her, and during a two-year stay with them she was never kissed or never hugged. Her father had been gassed in Auschwitz, and her mother died of cancer. When asked if she could forgive she said, ‘I cannot forgive. I blame the German people a great deal because I feel they were passive. They turned away. They may have the audacity to say they did not know. That is unacceptable. Until they can own up to it, I can’t forgive.
7. Robert Clary
Robert Clary was born on March 1, 1926 in Paris, France. He started his career as a singer on the radio at the age of 12. He was deported to the Nazi concentration camp in 1942 because he was Jewish. Thereafter Buschenwald was then liberated on April 11, 1945. Twelve persons from his close relatives were sent to Auschwitz. Clay was the only survivor out of all the family members. On returning to Paris, he found that a few of his siblings too had survived the Nazi occupation of France. Clary is known for his performance in the television sitcom Hogan’s Heroes.
8. Solomon Perel
Solomon Perel was born in Peine, Lower Saxony, Germany on April 20, 1925. He was captured by the Germans on April 20, 1945 but succeeded in escaping under the guise of being an ethnic German. On account of his fluency in German, he was assigned to work with Germans as an interpreter. His father was starved to death in the Lodz ghetto. His mother was gassed to death, and his sister was shot dead while on a death march. Perel wrote a book Ich war Hitlerjunge Salomon, meaning ‘I Was a Hitler Youth Salomon.’ Based on his experiences as reflected in his book, the CCC filmmakers produced a 1990 film Europa Europa.
9. Tauba Biterman
Tauba Biterman was born in Zamosc, Poland in 1917. Her family left for the Ukraine, considering that life under the Russians would be better for the Jews. She was in the Dubno ghetto in Poland but escaped with the help of some Jewish men she knew. From 1939 to 1945 she had to denounce all her identity as being Jewish. She recalls that during her ordeal, many times she stood before the Germans at gunpoint when they wanted to extract from her the confession of being Jewish. She is a Holocaust survivor and speaks about it at different forums. She believes, ‘It’s important for young people to know about the Holocaust so it shouldn’t happen again.’
10. Bruno Touschek
Bruno Touschek was born in Vienna, Austria on February 3, 1921 and died on May 25, 1978 in Innsbruck, Austria at the age of 57. Touschek was arrested by the Gestapo in 1945. He escaped just by chance from the Kiel concentration camp. While on the death march, he was shot by an SS officer and, presuming him to be dead, was left behind. This was how he survived the Holocaust. After the war he graduated from the University of Goettingen. He is known for his work in particle physics and accelerator physics.
Never in the history of mankind have men selectively eliminated their own kind at a state level except in the case of the Holocaust. The few survivors of the Holocaust are the greatest evidence of man’s mass murder by a genocidal state. The Holocaust is a big question mark on the face of mankind and on the world’s conscience. Why even the world’s most powerful countries remained unaware of the genocide and why they remained indifferent towards it is the big question. Holocausts are still ongoing, not against Jews though, currently. The world’s conscience is still drowsy or, rather, seems to be fast asleep.