Auschwitz 'hell on earth'

By Time of article published Jan 28, 2010

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By Tatenda Goredema

Staff Reporter

Sixty-five years on, two Cape Town women are still haunted by their memories of the Nazis' Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.

But, says one survivor of the notorious death camp, she is not bitter and does not wish ill on the people responsible.

Yesterday marked the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau by Soviet troops. It consisted of a concentration camp, a death camp, and a forced-labour camp.

At least 1,3 million people were deported to Auschwitz between 1940 and 1945; of these, at least 1,1 million were murdered.

There are six Holocaust survivors still living in Cape Town.

Yesterday, Miriam Lichterman recounted how Jewish people, who made up a substantial part of the Polish population at the time, were persecuted and forced to wear white arm bands with imprinted Star of David symbols.

Ella Blumenthal, who was held captive from July 1943 to June 1944, recalled how she survived being taken to the gas chamber.

"The order had come down to gas 500 Jewish women and there were 700 of us who had come off a cattle train. The only reason they didn't carry out the order simply because there was a slightly larger number of us."

With the exception of one niece, Blumenthal lost her entire immediate family in concentration camps. She described Auschwitz as being comparable to "hell on earth".

Lichterman said that without her faith in the "goodness of humanity" she would not have survived and would be bitter to this day.

Blumenthal said that speaking about it was the only way she could deal with the horrors of what happened to her.

A commemoration service was held last night at the Cape Town Holocaust Centre to commemorate the day the camp was liberated by Soviet troops, on 27 January 1945.

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