NEW YORK—Carolyn Maloney, congressional representative for New York’s 12th district, joined Holocaust survivors at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York on Friday.
She announced her plans to travel to Poland for the 69th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi concentration camp of its kind, and one of the few that is still standing today.
The numbers are contested, but some historians estimate that there were about 1.5 million prisoners, mostly Jews, that went through Auschwitz. About 1.2 million of those died.
Before the Russians arrived at the camp in 1945, the Nazis killed thousands of Auschwitz prisoners. Then they marched about 60,000 prisoners to a city called Wodzislaw 37 miles away. It was in the middle of winter and about 15,000 died on the way succumbing to cold and starvation. By the time the Russians arrived, there were only a few thousand prisoners left in Auschwitz, mostly the ones who were too weak or sickly to make the journey.
“The Holocaust showed us what happened when a modernized industrial state uses its vast impersonal power and mechanized efficiency to try to eradicate an entire people while the rest of the world looked away,” said Maloney.
There were roughly 6 million people killed in the Holocaust, many of them Jews.
Maloney said this was a day “to recommit to our promise that this shall never happen again” and announced her sponsorship of a bill to create a $10 million grant for Holocaust education efforts.
Maloney will be meeting with an international delegation at Auschwitz on January 27th, the day when it was taken over by the Russians.
Although she never went to a concentration camp, 80-year-old Brooklyn resident Toby Levy was a Jewish refugee in Poland during that time. Her and eight of her family members were taken in by a Polish woman who was a customer at her father’s store. The woman hid them in her barn and bought pigs and hens to put in the barn so the neighbors would not be suspicious when she visited them everyday.
Levy was in hiding for two years before the Russians took over her town of Chodorof in 1944. She was just 11 years old.
“And when we wanted food from the Russians, because they were cooking, they said, ‘Don’t eat. If you eat you’ll die,’ because for two months we had no food except grass,” she said.
In 1949 Levy immigrated to the US where she has lived ever since.
Levy lost touch with the woman for a while but got in contact with them again on a recent trip to Poland. She says she still sends gifts to the woman’s great granddaughter in appreciation of what they did for her family.
Levy credits her survival to her father’s maverick nature. When all the Jews were being rounded up he refused to go because he never followed a crowd. Instead he took his family into hiding, and as a result was among the 31 Jews in her town that survived the Holocaust.
Holly Kellum is a special correspondent in New York.