Book of horrors: Nazi camp survivors in U.S. recall Auschwitz

Sat Jan 24, 2015 8:41am EST
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By Barbara Goldberg

NEW YORK (Reuters) - In a little leather book, the kind some men use to list lovers, Holocaust survivor Hy Abrams keeps the names that still haunt him: Auschwitz, Plaszow, Mauthausen, Melk and Ebensee.

It has been 70 years since the Soviet army liberated the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland, where Abrams was taken at age 20 by German Nazi soldiers and separated from his mother, father, brother and three sisters.

"At night I saw the chimneys and the fire and the smoke," Abrams said, glancing at the tiny midnight blue book that contains details of his living nightmare, including him asking a fellow prisoner about the inferno that smelled of meat.

"'That fire,' he says, 'is where your father and your family went,'" recalled the Czech native, who never saw his parents again.

First-person accounts of the horror, as told by living witnesses, are becoming more rare with each passing year.

Abrams, at 90, is among the oldest of a dwindling population of Holocaust survivors who gather each week at a Brooklyn synagogue to share stories, and perhaps lunch and a dance or two. Even seven decades - filled with marriages, children and careers - will never blunt the terror they lived through.

Most of the 114,000 survivors living in the United States are in the New York metropolitan area. With an average age of 79, they are poor and in need of special help as the result of stress and malnutrition, said the UJA-Federation of New York, which supports the Brooklyn gatherings organized by Selfhelp Community Services.

About half the survivors of Nazi camps and wartime ghettos have died in the last decade and about half of those who remain are expected to pass away in the next seven years, said Hillary Kessler-Godin, spokeswoman for the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.   Continued...

90 year old holocaust survivor Hy Abrams poses for a portrait with a book that he carries with him everyday that documents all the different concentration camps he was held in during the second World War, in the Brooklyn borough of New York January 15, 2015. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri