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Reflections on 75th anniversary of Auschwitz liberation

Dina Butcher, Bismarck

Much is being written about Auschwitz, the “showcase” of the Holocaust where 1.1 million, mostly Jews, were killed, as 75 years have passed since the Russians liberated it. My Grandmother, Goldina Schoenthal, was 65 when she was sent there from hiding in Holland along with her three daughters, son-in-law and two grandchildren in 1943.

My father had begged her to sail with them when he, my mother and three siblings aged 7, 4 and 2 escaped from Germany in November 1939.

My father had a difficult time sharing his family story, although we all made efforts to interview him. Each time he was asked , he would spin into a dark place, revisiting his ordeal in having been incarcerated after the 1938 Krystal Nacht round-up of Jews, when he was taken from his sugar beet field by “former classmates” to a stockyard nearby for transport to Sachsenhausen (Oranienburg,) north of Berlin. We did not know what “post-traumatic stress syndrome” was when I was growing up, but in retrospect, my Father had it and I think my Mother and oldest two siblings suffered from it as well along with many among us from military trauma to experiencing other inhumanities and indignities that most of us cannot even imagine.

So reading the accounts from those few survivors still left to speak out about Auschwitz in the past few weeks has been deeply moving. My wonderful book club has almost annually visited this subject through fictional-based-on-fact novels about this barbaric chapter of 20th Century history. At one point, I thought we needed to stop, but after our local newspaper publisher encouraged reading “The Tattooist of Auschwitz” and realizing that we still live in a world where fear and hate can turn ordinary citizens into radical zealots, I think we need a city wide reading requirement of them! By reading about these atrocities, just maybe a few more of us can empathize and imagine what it is like to be stripped of ones rights of citizenship, be marginalized, hated, incarcerated, persecuted and murdered. And, perhaps, as a result get in touch with our own humanity.

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