MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A South Florida man who survived the Holocaust is reflecting on the events from Charlottesville, Virginia.
The march of neo-Nazis and white supremacists have brought back plenty of awful memories.
“We were the last half a million Jews that were shipped to Auschwitz,” said Holocaust survivor David Mermelstein.
Mermelstein said the horrors he lived through as a 15-year-old boy have haunted him for the rest of his life.
The 88-year-old recalls in vivid detail being ripped from his home in Hungary in 1944 and being crammed into crowded trains with his parents and six siblings and arriving in Auschwitz. There, he remembers seeing the notorious Dr. Josef Mengele.
“He looked at you, didn’t say nothing, just had a little stick and motioned to the right and the left,” said Mermelstein. “So when my line came, I looked, my grandfather, my parents, sister, my brothers went to the left. And then I look to my right, I see my two older brothers, so I stopped and I said to myself, ‘Where am I going to go? With my parents or with my brother?’”
Mermelstein ended up going to the right.
“If I would have gone to the left, I wouldn’t be here today because those that went to the left went straight to the gas chambers,” said Mermelstein.
After being forced to work at three different concentration camps for more than a year with very little food, he says he was down to 40 pounds.
He says he was on his death bed, too frail to move, when American troops rolled into town in 1945 and saved him and the rest of the people in the concentration camp.
“We saw tanks coming in. We knew they were not Germans. Why would the tanks come in and the soldiers are gone? The gates are open and they started to get closer and we saw an American flag on the tank. Oh my God, talking about happiness, I cannot even tell you how happy we were,” said Mermelstein.
Mermelstein says the recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia have hurt him and brought back a lot of pain.
“This is America and there is no room for something like this,” said Mermelstein. “They should have let them do it but they should have made them get police protection.”
He says 70 years after moving to the United States and starting his life all over again, he is sadden that in this day and age white supremacists continue to spread their hate.
When asked if he thinks racism is an issue in America, he answered, “Yes, oh yes. It’s getting worse.”