CHICAGO (CBS) — Holocaust survivors returned to Auschwitz on a grim anniversary, marking 75 years since Soviet troops liberated the Nazi death camp.
The dwindling number of Auschwitz survivors feel it is their duty to tell their painful stories.
CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole spent time with one of them.
We know the atrocities of the Jewish death camps from grainy pictures and shadows of the past.
“Seventy-five years later, it’s like yesterday.”
Holocaust survivor Fritzi Fritzshall knows firsthand of the horror that she speaks of.
“I’m there. I am remembering it. I am hearing it. I am seeing it,” she said.
The Nazis ripped Fritzi, her mother, grandparents and younger brothers from their home in rural Hungary. She was eventually transported to Auschwitz, the most infamous of the Nazi camps.
“I am cold. I am hungry and I see the gas chambers, the families being torn apart,” Fritzhall said.
“I survived because I was one of the lucky ones,” she said.
Surrounded by misery, fateful moments kept her alive, a man telling her to lie and exaggerate her age.
“He saved my life. He knew that the children under 15 would go to the gas chambers,” Fritzshall said.
She saw her mother pulled from a line and sent to the gas chambers. But some family remained.
“I had an aunt who put her arms around me and said ‘if we can survive tonight, tomorrow will be better.’”
Many Auschwitz survivors returned there Monday to mark the 75th anniversary of its liberation by Soviet forces. More than a million people were murdered there at Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s command.
“When I came to this wonderful country, I never thought I would have to live and hear about antisemitism again,” Fritzshall said.
But in recent year s from Pittsburgh to southern California, there have been deadly attacks on synagogues here in the U.S. and a rise in anti-Jewish rhetoric.
“Hared has gotten strong and we need to stand up,” Fritzhall said.
So however painful, Fritzi relives the memories, in honor of the Jews who worked beside her in a death camp sharing their crumbs of bread to keep each other alive.
I am giving an interview today in the name of 599 women who shared their precious food with me so I could survive and tell the story,” she said.
Seventeen million people, including six million Jews, died in the Holocaust, Many in camps like Auschwitz.