April 20, 2015
DALLAS (SMU) — With this year marking the 70th anniversary of the liberation of concentration camps at the end of World War II, SMU’s Embrey Human Rights Program will sponsor “Reflections from Survivors & Liberators of Nazi Death Camps” on Thursday, April 23, from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Great Hall, 5901 Bishop Blvd., on the SMU campus.
The free public event, co-sponsored by the Dallas Holocaust Museum Center for Education and Tolerance, will feature Holocaust survivor Rosa Blum, 86, of Dallas, and liberator Bernhard Storch, 93, of New York.
“This is an increasingly rare opportunity to hear first-hand about the Holocaust from the last generation of its survivors,” says Embrey Human Rights Director Rick Halperin. “It’s most unusual to get the perspective of a liberator who accompanied Soviet forces through areas never seen by American or British armies.”
During the Holocaust (1933 to 1945), 11 million people, including six million Jews and five million others, were killed by Nazi Germany and its collaborators who engaged in ethnic, political and social “cleansing.”
Blum was deported from her native Romania to Auschwitz in Poland when she was 15. She still bears mental and physical scars — the latter delivered by Dr. Josef Mengele. During the “selection” process that sorted prisoners for work or execution, the “Angel of Death” beat Blum for the emotional outburst she showed when he decided her mother should die and she should live. They were torn from each other’s arms. Blum ultimately would be forced to work as an assistant in the same hospital where Mengele conducted his ghastly “research.”
The horrific acts of cruelty she witnessed destroyed her. “I was not the same anymore,” Blum has said.
Blum was later shipped to the Dachau camp in Germany, where she was during its liberation by U.S. Army forces on April 29, 1945. In 1950 she moved to the U.S. and started a family.
Storch was a teen-ager in 1939 when both Germany and the Soviet Union invaded his native Poland. While trying to escape to safety, Storch was captured by Soviet forces and sent to work in a Siberian labor camp, where he remained until the Soviet Union declared war on Germany in 1941 and as part of a treaty with allies U.S. and Great Britain, Polish citizens were freed from Russian slave labor camps. Storch returned home to fight with the resistance and ultimately helped liberate the Nazi death camps Sobibor, Majdanek and Chelmno.
“In Majdanek, we saw a mountain of human ash, with human bones scattered in between. The feeling I had is still with me; it’s just indescribable ... complete shock. There were warehouses with hundreds of thousands of shoes sorted out,” Storch recalled. “The irony of the thing was that Polish people were living outside the camp, farming, as if nothing were happening.”
After discovering his entire family had been killed by the Nazis, Storch and his wife, Ruth, also a Holocaust survivor, emigrated to the U.S. in 1947.
“For 25 years I did not discuss the Holocaust; it was just too painful. Eventually I opened up and now lecture at schools, emphasizing Jewish armed resistance in World War II.”
Storch is author of the 2012 book, World War II Warriors: My Own Recollections of World War II. (For a “Voice of Russia” interview with Storch in English, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mh314cHTy2Y.)
For more details about SMU’s Embrey Human Rights Program, which conducts an annual two-week Holocaust study pilgrimage to Poland each December and also hosts Holocaust-focused trips to other countries, contact email@example.com or 214-768-8347.
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