Culture Ethics Politics

Auschwitz survivor: Being alive is best ‘revenge’

Auschwitz survivor Renee Ganz, 86, from Oradea, Romania, discusses her time at the Nazi concentration camp on the 70th anniversary the allied forces liberation in 1945, from her apartment in Tel Aviv, Israel, on January 21, 2015. An old photo of Renee's family before the war, left to right, Brother, Nickolai, mother, Bella, Renee, and father, Laslo. Renee's father and brother were murdered in Auschwitz. Her mother survived but died of cancer in 1953. Photo by Debbie Hill, courtesy of USA Today
Auschwitz survivor Renee Ganz, 86, from Oradea, Romania, discusses her time at the Nazi concentration camp on January 21, 2015, the 70th anniversary of the allied forces liberation in 1945, from her apartment in Tel Aviv, Israel. Photo by Debbie Hill, courtesy of USA Today

Auschwitz survivor Renee Ganz, 86, from Oradea, Romania, discusses her time at the Nazi concentration camp on January 21, 2015, the 70th anniversary of the allied forces liberation in 1945, from her apartment in Tel Aviv, Israel. Photo by Debbie Hill, courtesy of USA Today

TEL AVIV, Israel (RNS) Shortly after the Nazi invasion of what was then Hungary in May 1944, Renee Ganz’s family and most of the 25,000 Jews in the city of Oradea were forced into cattle cars and transported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.

Men and boys were placed in one line, while women and girls were led to another. Ganz was just 15 at the time.

“I asked a German soldier why we were being separated and he said, ‘You’ve had a long journey. You need to take a shower,'” Ganz, now 86, recalled. “That’s when the selection began.”

German officers took one look at the prisoners and decided who would live and who would die.

“If they pointed left, you went to the gas chambers and crematorium. If they pointed to the right, you became a slave,” she said. “We were sent to the right, but I never saw my father or brother Nikolai again.”

Ganz, a self-described optimist, tries not to dwell on the horrors of the Holocaust and the 100 relatives she lost, but the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau has stirred up painful memories. She spent two months at Auschwitz before being sent to a slave labor camp along with her mother, who also survived the war.

On Tuesday (Jan. 26) — Holocaust Remembrance Day — Ganz will return to the death camp for the first time, along with nearly 100 other Auschwitz survivors from 19 countries.

“It will be very difficult, but it is important,” she said.

A medical team of 12 doctors, psychologists and nurses will accompany the survivors, ages 73 to 96, because of the “emotionally powerful and physically taxing” nature of the visit, the World Jewish Congress said.

“This may be the last major anniversary we will be able to remember with those who experienced the Holocaust firsthand, said Robert Singer, secretary general for the Jewish congress, which helped organize the event. “From this historic event, their voices will echo across the generations.”

Auschwitz survivor Renee Ganz, 86, from Oradea, Romania, discusses her time at the Nazi concentration camp on the 70th anniversary the allied forces liberation in 1945, from her apartment in Tel Aviv, Israel, on January 21, 2015.  An old photo of Renee's family before the war, left to right, Brother, Nickolai, mother, Bella, Renee, and father, Laslo. Renee's father and brother were murdered in Auschwitz. Her mother survived but died of cancer in 1953. Photo by Debbie  Hill, courtesy of USA Today

Auschwitz survivor Renee Ganz, 86, from Oradea, Romania, discusses her time at the Nazi concentration camp on the 70th anniversary the allied forces liberation in 1945, from her apartment in Tel Aviv, Israel, on January 21, 2015. An old photo of Renee’s family before the war, left to right, Brother, Nickolai, mother, Bella, Renee, and father, Laslo. Renee’s father and brother were murdered in Auschwitz. Her mother survived but died of cancer in 1953. Photo by Debbie Hill, courtesy of USA Today

Of the more than 1.1 million people who died at Auschwitz, about 90 percent were Jews, according to the Yad Vashem Holocaust World Center in Jerusalem. About one in six of all Jews killed during the Holocaust died at the camp. Also killed there were homosexuals, Soviet prisoners of war, Christian Poles, Romani and others.

Hundreds of thousands of prisoners transported from across Europe were sent to the gas chambers, then cremated at the camp. Those who survived the daily death “selections” often died from infection or starvation.

As the Soviet army was approaching in January 1945, the Nazis stepped up their exterminations and — in an attempt to destroy evidence of their genocide — sent the surviving prisoners in Auschwitz and its satellite camps on a series of death marches.

Auschwitz survivor Shalom Lindenbaum, 88, from Przytyk, Poland, discuss his time at the Nazi concentration camp on the 70th anniversary the allied forces liberation in 1945, in his office apartment in Ramat Gan, Israel, on January 21, 2015. Photo by Debbie  Hill, courtesy of USA Today

Auschwitz survivor Shalom Lindenbaum, 88, from Przytyk, Poland, discuss his time at the Nazi concentration camp on the 70th anniversary the allied forces liberation in 1945, in his office apartment in Ramat Gan, Israel, on January 21, 2015. Photo by Debbie Hill, courtesy of USA Today

Emaciated and dressed in flimsy uniforms unsuited to the frigid cold of a Polish winter, thousands of prisoners died as a result.

“After the war ended we learned that my brother died just two weeks before the liberation,” Ganz said, her voice cracking.

When he was 16, Shalom Lindenbaum was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau in July 1944 along with his parents and sister. His older brother, Moshe, had already died from illness in a labor camp.

“We were sent straight to Birkenau because the Nazis wanted us as laborers, and other than for the children and the elderly there was no selection,” said Lindenbaum, now 88 and a retired professor of Hebrew literature.

“They tattooed numbers on our arms and shaved both the men and the women everywhere we had hair,” he said while sitting in his book-filled home in Ramat Gan, a Tel Aviv suburb.

Lindenbaum and his father were then sent to the nearby Buna-Monowitz concentration camp, while his mother and sister remained at Auschwitz-Birkenau. On Jan. 18, 1945, Lindenbaum and his father were among 1,500 surviving prisoners sent on a death march.

“My sister and mother, meanwhile, were sent on a death march toward Bergen Belsen,” another concentration camp, he said. “After four or five days in the bitter cold, only 500 or 600 of our original 1,500 were alive.”

Lindenbaum’s mother died the day after Bergen Belsen was liberated. “She told my sister that she knew I was still alive and asked her to tell me to recite Kaddish, the memorial prayer, for her.”

Lindenbaum, who will attend the Auschwitz ceremony in Poland, said the anti-Semitism that fueled the Holocaust survives today.

“After 70 years a Jew still can’t walk freely on the streets of Europe without fearing for his life,” he said, referring to many assaults there, including the terror attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris this month that left four Jews dead.

Ganz agreeds: “Anti-Semitism will be around for another thousand years.” For her, traveling to Auschwitz is about getting “revenge,” she said.

“I have children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The Germans tried to kill the entire Jewish people but they failed. I am alive. I am here.”

About the author

Michele Chabin

11 Comments

Click here to post a comment

  • Ganz: “Anti-Semitism will be around for another thousand years.”

    But only if religion continues for a thousand more years.

    There is no secular argument against Jews. Only religion inflames such hatreds:

    “Execute those enemies of mine” – JESUS (Luke 19:27)

    If Christianity, Islam and other religions could be put in their place (a garbage truck) society might get a chance to flourish with art, culture and science once again.

    There is no need to keep religion going.

  • Hey, lay off your own atheist religious promotion of violence, Atheist Max. You’re deliberately trying to smear Jesus Christ’s name just like Muhammadans do, by not telling the truth about that Luke quote of Jesus’ TELLING A STORY about a “certain nobleman”. Without telling your audience that Jesus is talking about this nobleman’s actions you guys try to make Jesus look violent. What schmucks! If a a schoolteacher reads a story to her class in which the characters are acting violent, does that mean the schoolteacher herself is the violent actor in the story? Please, stop slandering religion by false examples.

    As for my relatives who perished in WW II death camps revenge is a stupid response and does nothing to end the problem as Jews again come under attack. Only by learning the Job of the Jew that rabbis don’t know and certainly don’t teach will hatred of Jews end in Gentile majority societies.

  • @Stephen Lewis:

    “…by not telling the truth about that Luke quote of Jesus’ TELLING A STORY about a “certain nobleman”.

    I know what I’m talking about. I was a Christian for 44 years.

    The NOBLEMAN was Jesus.
    The point of the Parable was to explicitly warn his followers what would happen to them if they did not follow his instructions to the letter:

    “Bring to me those enemies of mine who would not have me as their King and Execute them in front of me.” – JESUS (Luke 19:27)

    This has been called the sign of the 2nd coming when Jesus commands his good servants to slaughter the bad servants.

    Hitler loved this parable. The enemies of Jesus were the Jews:

    EVERY CHRISTIAN INTERPRETATION OF
    ‘THE PARABLE OF THE MINAS’
    SAYS THE NOBLEMAN IS JESUS

    Catholic Christ Notes – THE NOBLEMAN IS JESUS:
    http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?com=mhc&b=42&c=19

    BIBLE GATEWAY – THE NOBLEMAN IS JESUS:
    http://www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/IVP-NT/Luke/Controversy-Jerusalem

    BIBLE STUDY TOOLS – THE NOBLEMAN IS JESUS
    http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/jamieson-fausset-brown/luke/luke-19.html

    MATTHEW HENRY’S COMPLETE COMMENTARY ON THE BIBLE – THE NOBLEMAN IS JESUS
    http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/view.cgi?book=lu&chapter=019

    CHRISTIAN APOLOGETICS – THE NOBLEMAN IS JESUS
    http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/2009/06/09/what-does-the-parable-of-the-minas-mean/

    CATHOLIC BIBLE HUB – THE NOBLEMAN IS JESUS
    http://biblehub.com/commentaries/luke/19-27.htm

    THE MOST IMPORTANT INTERPRETATION
    IS THE ONE PROMINENT CHRISTIANS GAVE IT!

    “Execute them” – Jesus (Luke 19:27)

  • HITLER:
    “OUR Lord Jesus is a Soldier for God”

    “My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter.

    “It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God’s truth! In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was His fight for the world against the Jewish poison.
    “Today, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed His blood upon the Cross.
    As a Christian I have no duty to allow my self to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice… And if there is anything which could demonstrate that we are acting rightly it is the distress that daily grows . For as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people.”
    -Adolf Hitler, in a speech on 12 April 1922

    Beware of religion. Beware especially Jesus, Yahweh and Allah.
    And beware of those who would destroy the Separation of Church and State

    ____
    AM
    For Civility, Culture and The Separation of Church and State

  • What a silly person you are as an atheist using Bible thumpers as your references for what Jesus was saying. You talk out of both sides of your mouth, Athiest Max, and your argument is toast because of that kind of “logic” that isn’t. It is pure religious propaganda of the atheist variety instead of Evangelical or Muhammadan. In short, your reasoning is too prejudiced to believed. You claim to have been a “Christian” for 44 years and then you turn on Jesus Christ? Only shows whatever you called commitment to Christ and Christianity was very likely of the same fundamentalist mindset you have as an atheist bigot. My God, man, you really are just like Muhammadans zeroing in on those words only found in Luke’s parable and it is a parable, i.e. a STORY with a point to it. Making Jesus the bad guy in the parable is ridiculous reasoning, no more valid than believing every story a storyteller tells us is always about them. You need to be able to tell religious propaganda from real exegesis which you are not qualified to give us, no atheist can possibly know what they are talking about re real spiritual consciousness. And I speak from experience as being a former atheist myself. Once you make real authentic spiritual contact with God and the Spirit of Christ, there is no going backwards to the lesser atheist consciousness.

  • @Stephen Lewis,

    “atheist bigot”

    Who is the Bigot here? I have not spewed bigotry at you.

    If it is not bigoted to preach in favor of Jesus Christ
    It CANNOT be bigoted to preach against Jesus Christ!

    Pull yourself together, man!

    Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism – these are just ideas about reality. They are hypotheses.
    Like Republicanism or Communism, IDEAS are not people. Ideas have no rights whatsoever. People should be protected but not their bad ideas.

    Religion is a cancerous, horrible, life-cheapening idea
    and it has been and continues to be the cause of unending misery across the world.

  • @Stephen Lewis:

    “My God, man, you really are just like Muhammadans….”

    That is bigotry.
    I don’t engage in that sort of thing.

    The Parable of the Minas (Luke 19) is one of the most despicable parables ever told. Its lesson is a not-so-very-veiled threat from Jesus that he will return someday and bless the good servants with a special reward: They will be granted the pleasure of killing the bad servants.

    Jesus is clear!
    The Good servant shall be the one to receive this instruction:

    “Bring to me those enemies of mine and execute them in front of me” – JESUS (Luke 19:27)

    This is a shameful, ridiculously barbaric parable.
    And it is absolutely no accident that the primitive, terrible cruelty of the New Testament has been a scourge on humanity for 2000 years.

    It is time to abandon this foolish, non-productive, cruel garbage.

  • I couldn’t have said it better myself. You have my upmost respect for your argument, which you have well-documented. Thank you for stating it so eloquently. @_Johnya

  • I broke my rule never to argue with fundamentalists of which you show you are one of the atheist variety. You types can’t think straight so there’s no real dialogue ever happening, only your flood of hatred of Christianity as a born-again atheist with the reformed drunk syndrome becoming rabidly anti-booze and unable to separate the good qualities of alcohol from the bad ones. You attack Christianity from an atheist p.o.v. which I have been there, done that, you can take it from me you do not have a clue what you are talking about trying to give us the atheist rant about religious violence when the historical fact remains it has been atheist rulers who still hold the world’s record for mass murders, Soviets killing tens of millions through their Siberian gulag system, mostly Christian Russians.

    I am fully Christian yet I am not a Bible believer at all and you need to be able to tell the difference between Christians as you paint us all with your tar brush. Pauline Christianity is what the world knows yet it was only one of the early Christian movements. Christianity is alive and well and has vastly changed now with the recovery of the lost Celestial Torah information. This is my last post to you, Atheist Max. Can’t and won’t argue with bigots.

  • Stephen Lewis,

    “you need to be able to tell the difference between Christians as you paint us all with your tar brush.”

    I didn’t say anything about Christians. Your groundless persecution complex is very unattractive.

    The Soviets killed Christians because it was competing with the religion of the State: Communism is an Agrarian Religious Cult with an enforced Dogma (religion). Stalin still appears with a Halo on Russian Orthodox Icons.
    That is not Atheism.

    THIS is Atheism:
    “Congress shall make no law establishing a Religion….”
    The US Constitution.

ADVERTISEMENTs