By Oren Liebermann
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – On January 27, 1945, the Russian army liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau, a concentration camp in Poland where the Nazis killed more than 2 million Jews. The day would become International Holocaust Remembrance Day. On the 67th anniversary of that day, a Holocaust survivor who spent time in Auschwitz-Birkenau sat down with Eyewitness News.
Michael Herskovitz does not remember everything about his teenage years, but he will never forget the day Nazis forced him from his Czechoslovakia home early one Saturday morning in 1944.
“I remember the day when they took us out from the home,” says the 82-year-old Holocaust survivor. “The German soldiers walked through the village. We had no idea what was going on.”
Herskovitz was forced on a packed train and sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau, the most notorious of the Nazi concentration camps.
“As the doors opened up, that’s all you heard. Dogs barking. Gunshots. Screaming. Hollering,” remembers Herskovitz as if he were still standing on the train platform.
Within minutes, Herskovitz was separated from his mother and father. He would never see his parents again. For the Jewish teenager, it became a daily struggle for survival.
“We got once a day watered down soup and a 2 by 2 inch square of bread.”
From Auschwitz-Birkenau, he was taken to Mathausen and Gunskirchen, two work camps where every day, more Jews died.
“Every night the bulldozer came in with the shovel, picked up the dead bodies.”
When the British liberated his camp, Herskovitz was rushed to the hospital with typhoid fever. After recovering, he moved to Israel, then to America, where he settled in Bala Cynwyd. He has made it his work now to educate, speaking before groups and governments. But he says his most important audience is the children.
“I decided that I would like to educate the kids. That’s what I wanted to do and that’s what I’m doing.”
Herskovitz says he spoke to more than 80 groups and classes in 2011, and he hopes to speak to as many as he can this year. If you are interested in having him speak, visit the Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center website by clicking HERE.