Daily News from New York, New York on January 27, 1995 · 1058
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Daily News from New York, New York · 1058

New York, New York
Issue Date:
Friday, January 27, 1995
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Anrpnn7 uJLbuu CO 5 o r- CM & CO By BRIAN KATES and RAPHAEL SUGARMAN Daily News Staff Writers Today is the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the grave-site of 1.5 million people in Os-wiedm, Poland. Originally set up for Poles who resisted the Nazis, Auschwitz-Birkenau killed up to 8,000 people a day 90 of them Jews in four gas chambers and crematoriums before Soviet soldiers stormed the camp Jan. 27, 1945. Here are five stories of New Yorkers who survived the unspeakable horrors of Auschwitz. ERNEST MICHEL Ernest Michel rolls up his sleeve and stares at the pale blue number tattooed on his left arm: 104995. "I remember it all," he says. Now 71 and an executive with United Jewish Appeal, Michel was arrested in Mannheim, Germany, in 1939 and forced into a work crew cutting wood, repairing streets, cleaning sewers. He was 15. In February 1943, he was sent to Auschwitz. He remembers deportation in a stinking cattle can "A boy wrote a postcard to his mother 'We'll see each other again,' it said and tossed it through a crack hop ing someone would find it and mail it" But an SS guard found it and demanded to know who had written it The boy raised his hand. "The SS man shot him through the head." He remembers his first day at Auschwitz: "The barracks plain wooden bunks three levels high, no mattresses, just straw and a dirty blanket We were lined up alphabetically, stripped and shorn from head to foot They took everything we had. Everything. "We were sprayed from head to foot with a burning liquid and sent out naked to an icy shower. A prisoner threw us clothes thin striped pants, striped jackets, torn underwear, little caps. They gave off a heavy, sick smell. "They tattooed us. It hurt like helL We were in shock. A prisoner said, 'Welcome to Auschwitz-Buna. You are the lucky ones. The others are already up the chimney.' I did not yet know what that meant" He remembers slave labor in the I.G. Farben plastics factory: "Life expectancy, living on thin soup and a piece of bread, was six months. I was close to being a 'Muselman,' the term we used for the living dead. Yet I wanted to live another day, and another, and another. I never gave up hope." He remembers the stroke . of luck that spared him from . i " death:?. I -ic.- I" z-A- ' ,r.t- "I took a blow on the head its from an SS man and was sent f j -A ERNEST MICHEL wrote book about Auschwitz horrors. H ' y ' EtITOICIi; to the infirmary- I feared I would be gassed because I couldn't work. Then a man asked if anyone had good handwriting. My father had made me learn calligraphy. I said 'I do,' and was made a recorder. "My job: to write lists of people sent to the gas chambers. It saved my life." He remembers freedom: On April 18, 1945, three months after he was evacuated from Auschwitz in the Nazi rout, Michel and two comrades took advantage of the confusion to escape into the woods. They found their way to a farm, where they worked in exchange for food. "We were there in May when the farmer's wife came and said, 'Germany has surrendered, the war is over.' "I didn't know whether to laugh or cry or scream. I was helping the farmer fix a fence. We just kept on working." He remembers how he survived: "My mother's last words to me were, 'Be a good Jewish boy.'" IRENE HIZME Irene Hizme's pediatrician was Dr. Josef Mengele, the "Angel of Death" of Auschwitz. She and her twin brother, Rene Slotkin, were 5 years old when Mengele singled them out for medical experiments in the concentration camp hospital. ; ' . . ." , " 2 '-"In June 1944, our entire: barracks' was ' liquidate, Said Hizme, who was ripped i. immm 1 1 i'i ' ma 4 DAN FARRELL DAILY NEWS TWINS RENE SLOTKIN and Irene Hizme were victims of Josef Mengele's evil experiments. with her family from their home in Czechoslovkia in 1943. "Rene and I were spared because we were twins. Mengele wanted us." Mengele experimented on Hizme and used her brother as a control. "I didn't know what was happening to me," she said. "I just thought I was going to the doctor. I remember getting in-- jections and undergoing surgery. I still have scars. But I have no idea what was done to me." Today, Hizme, 57 of Ocean-side, L.I., suffers from multiple sclerosis. "Yes, I do wonder whether the things that were done to me at Auschwitz are responsible for my MS," she says. "I just don't know." The horror of being a child at Auschwitz was in not being able to understand the horror. "I remember my mother being torn from me and I remember a scream, and it was very intense," Hizme said. "I knew even then that she was going to be killed. But I didn't know why. "I saw people run into barbed wire fences and die," s she says. "But it was some-, thing I did not understand. I ' once hid among dead bodies. ' But I didn't know -why."' J 1 ' She and her brother were separated from each other the whole time. "I only saw her once, through the wire," Slotkin says. "But somehow I always knew she was there." As Soviet troops closed in on Auschwitz in January 1945, Slotkin was herded onto a truck to be sent to his death. Mengle countermanded the . order. Only he could kill his twins. A few days later, the boy, then 7, was marched out of the camp with thousands of other inmates as the Nazis fled. Hizme was too weak to walk. "I was near death, lying on the ground," she says. The liberators swarmed into the camp Jan. 27, 1945. "I have a vague memory of soldiers with horses and a lot of commotion," Hizme says. "I was scared. I didn't know what was happening." . A Polish peasant woman found her and carried her to her home in the town outside the barbed wire. About a year later a Jewish organization called Rescue Children arranged her adoption by an American family, who tracked down her brother two years , ; later in Prague and adopted jshe pretended she was her Says Hizme: "I see what is happening today ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia, the killing in Israel, the horror in Rwanda and I wonder if we learned anything. To me it is a continuation of the evil that the Nazis began." ESTHER GEIZHALS Esther Geizhals' memories of Auschwitz are as much about bravery and selflessness as about death. Geizhals was just 14 when she and her family were transported to the death camp from the Jewish ghetto in Lodz, Poland. "We were in the cattle car for two straight days and nights in August, with no food and no water," she recalls, tears flowing down her face. "There were people dying all around us, but my mother tried to hold me and to shield me." Her mother, Bluma, was cradling another little girl, too: the daughter of a longtime neighbor who died in the ghetto. "My mother could not stand to think of this 5-year-old girl being alone in Auschwitz,, so , -him asjwelL, (5 v.-rnfc mother," Geizhals, 65, recalls. ' Today,;; the , Holocaust ?HSThat courageous decision haunts the" twins. cost Bluma her life. u v.: it; iv

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