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FREIMAN: Remembering Auschwitz, 60 years on

Published: February 4, 2005
Section: Opinions


Last Thursday, January 27, 2005, officials, liberators and survivors gathered in Oswiecim, Poland to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp. At least 1.5 million men, women and children, the majority of them Jews, were gassed, shot, starved or burned alive in crematoria there from 1942-1945.

Russian liberators like Anatoly Shapiro, 92, still remember the horrors they saw on that day sixty years ago.

When I saw the people, it was skin and bones. They had no shoes, and it was freezing. They couldnt even turn their heads, they stood like dead people.

It stank;

you couldnt stay a second. No one took the dead to a grave. It was unbelievable. The soldiers from my battalion asked me, Let us go. We cant stay. This is unbelievable.

The ceremony held at the Nazi death camp was attended by aging Holocaust survivors as well as the presidents of Poland, Russia, Israel and Vice President Dick Cheney.
The story of the camps reminds us that evil is real and must be called by its name and confronted, Cheney remarked during his speech.

However, the most stirring speech of the ceremony came from a woman not scheduled to speak at all. Merka Shevach, an Auschwitz survivor from Poland who now lives in Israel, went up on the podium and removed her winter coat. She now stood with only a thin sweater.

I stood naked in this camp, a girl of 16, this snow, as I stand now, almost naked and frozen with cold, she shouted in Polish. They brought my family here and burnt them, they stole my name and gave me a number.

Shevach rolled back her sleeve to reveal her tattooed prisoner number: 15755.
Now, she said, I have a country, I have an army, I have a president, I have a flag and this will never happen again.

As Brandeis students, it is our duty to Holocaust victims and survivors to ensure that Merka Shevach is right, that the Holocaust will never happen again. This means doing all we can to prevent genocide from happening again, prosecuting crimes against humanity, and rejecting racist hatred. However, the most important way that we can do all of the above is by remembering the Holocaust itself;

giving faces and names to millions of innocent mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, slaughtered because of who they were. An entire civilization was destroyed. Our job is to remember the individuals. The memory of the victims will empower us to stop hatred and genocide when it rears its ugly head.

Editors Note: Jessica Freiman is a Co-Chair of the Holocaust Remembrance Committee.