WASHINGTON D.C. (CBSMiami) – It is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a worldwide day of reflection and remembrance for the millions of lives lost in the Holocaust.
At 87, Irene Weiss remembers her time at Auschwitz as if it was yesterday. A photographer captured a picture of her arrival at 13-years-old, just moments after she was hurried out of the train with her parents and five other brothers and sisters. It was the last time she would ever see most of her family.
“The separation was very quick. My mother and two little boys were immediately taken,” she explained. “My father and 16-year-old brother are in that crowd,” she said pointing to a picture on the wall at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC.
In the picture of her, Irene is looking for her little sister Edith who was sent into another line, she never found her. There was another heartbreaking picture snapped by a Nazi photographer. It captured the haunting image of her mother and two little brothers, they likely had no idea that they were waiting outside the gas chamber.
Irene believes she survived because of how she was dressed, that she appeared older and could be used as slave labor.
“You see I have a kerchief on and I have a very big coat on and I sort of slipped by,” she said. She believes Nazi soldiers thought she was older. “All the women, the married women, all wore scarves,” she pointed to the scarf on her head.
During her 8 months at Auschwitz, Irene was with her older sister. They were the only survivors out of their family of eight.
Irene says as all of this was unfolding; they had little information and did not realize the fate of 6 million Jews or the full cruelty of the Nazi’s.
“The propaganda and their teaching was such that these are enemies of the people,” she explained, “They’re sub human; they’re causing all the problems in the world.”
As the world pauses to remember those who died and those who survived on this International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Irene looks at life today and has a warning.
“I am very saddened that nothing has changed as far as wars, killing, genocide,” she lamented. “And most of all, how in many countries the leaders influence them to be evil against each other, we’re constantly be separated by our leaders,” she continued. “We have to resist that. We’re all human beings.”
The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum recently began an online campaign called “Never stop asking why” with the hashtag #askwhy. The idea is to begin a global conversation to fight genocide and hate.
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