A gathering of over 30 people remembered the Holocaust and the liberation of Auschwitz on January 26 at The Cedars of Chapel Hill retirement community. Three survivors of Auschwitz were present.
Seventy years ago Allied Forces entered Auschwitz and the surrounding camps. This included Mauthausen concentration camp where Robert Patton, then a sergeant in George Patton’s Third Army, was part of the liberating force. Robert shared his stories, returned to Europe several times, and participated as a speaker for the Chapel Hill Holocaust Speakers Bureau. We lost Robert last April, but his wife, Helen was able to attend this event.
Rebecca Hauser joined us at the ceremony and lit a candle in remembrance of her family and village. Rebecca, a Greek, was just 20 years old when her village was assembled and sent to Auschwitz. From her village, only about 100 survived. Over 45,000 Greeks were sent to Auschwitz. Learn more
Survivors are now in their 90’s and we are losing them daily. Soon, only their stories, recollections, and mementos will remain. Their stories are recorded in books, in libraries, on film, and on video, but it is the remembrance stories that are so important.
Our Bible was first passed by the spoken word from generation to generation. Our stories were passed down from father to son and repeated countless times before it became the written word.
We gather each Sunday to recall the stories that are the Bible with readings from the Torah or Holy Scripture. So, too, were we able to hear this night a riveting story as told by a granddaughter. It was the story of her mother and her mother’s mother.
Deborah Long shared the story of her mother hiding from the Germans during a roundup of Jews. Deborah read from the pages of her mother’s diary.
She told the story of a young girl who was well hidden and evaded capture, but as she came out of hiding, her mother was gone. Her mother was heading to the railway to board a train, destination unknown.
As we listened to Deborah read from the diary, we felt the anguish of a parent separated from a child. We have all experienced the temporary loss of a child, only to rejoice in finding them safe. In her case, she was far from safe. Her story was going to be so much more than anything we could imagine.
The story continued with the young girl following the Jews heading to the railway. She found and pleaded to an officer to help her find her mother. She wanted to be with her. It was where she would be safe in her arms.
She could have safely escaped by just being quiet and getting away—now while there was still hope.
After much commotion and pleading, an officer took her with him as he started to bang on a railcars. We veterans know them as a French 40 and 8 boxcar. They held forty people or eight horses and were the transport for World War I doughboys heading to the front lines. This time they were packed with far more people.
From the very first car came a voice answering back with the name of the mother. She was there! Mother and child were united. She wanted to be with her mother and begged her mother to just tell them to let them go. The mother told the little girl that maybe she could go, but mother had to stay as they would not let her leave the railcar.
Mother and daughter were as one and they endured the long trip to an unknown in each others arms. Arriving in Auschwitz, men were put into one line, older mothers into another, young women in another, and then there were the children. Sick, faint, tired, strong, all were sorted. The girls were separated from her mother.
They led her mother to another line. Mother said, “I am weak and they are giving me a ride to the next stop.” You know the rest. They were separated and the mother eventually found the only way out of Auschwitz, “up through the chimneys.”
As Robert Patton would often say, “We can’t let them be forgotten.” That is one thing we will not do. You are encouraged to attend local events and memorials of The Holocaust. Find out more and see upcoming events.
To learn more about the Shoah (The Holocaust), click here.