Survivors Mark 75 Years Since Auschwitz Liberation

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There have even been cases of Polish neo-Nazis celebrating Adolf Hitler's birthday in a Polish forest in 2017, a shocking revelation that was revealed by a television broadcaster's undercover investigation.

Written By Associated Press Television News | Mumbai | Updated On:

Leon Weintraub carefully searches through a stack of papers he's kept preciously for the past seven decades and pulls out an old identification card from the Jewish ghetto of Litzmannstadt in German-occupied Poland.

The 94-year-old physician is one of the dwindling numbers of survivors from the Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp to travel to Poland to mark the 75th anniversary of the camp's liberation by allied forces.

Weintraub has spent decades speaking about his ordeal during the war in an effort to guarantee the Nazi horror is never forgotten.

"As long as they are deniers that such things happened, it is so important to keep this memory," he told the Associated Press from his apartment in Stockholm overlooking the river.

Today, he's concerned about the growing far-right sentiment in the country of his birth.

Born in 1926, he lived with his mother and four older sisters in Lodz, Poland.

In 1940, his entire family was forced to live in the Lodz Ghetto from where they were deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1944.

Several weeks after arriving, he managed to escape death by infiltrating another group of inmates leaving Auschwitz for a work camp, and later learnt that all the other boys from his block in Auschwitz were killed in the gas chambers.

"Today are young Poles marching on the streets in the towns of the country of my birth with uniforms very close and it's similar to the Nazi uniforms, with slogans identical to Nazi slogans and that identify themselves as Nazis. This is unbelievable that descendants of Poles killed by the Nazis call himself today Nazis."

Like in much of Europe, nationalism and intolerance have been growing in recent years in Poland, nourished by social media and by a populist government in Warsaw.

Top leaders of the conservative government even marched on Poland's Independence Day in 2018 with some extreme far-right groups.

It was seen as an attempt to keep fringe, far-right groups from taking away votes from the ruling conservative party, but has not really worked.

In elections last fall, a far-right group won seats in parliament for the first time.

There have even been cases of Polish neo-Nazis celebrating Adolf Hitler's birthday in a Polish forest in 2017, a shocking revelation that was revealed by a television broadcaster's undercover investigation.

Given the Nazi role in destroying Poland during the war, the number of neo-Nazis is believed to be extremely small.

That there were any at all was especially shocking in light of Poland's history.

"I think that the right-wing government tolerates these terrible people, these Nazi and anti-Semitic people, because they don't want to lose their votes for the election."

After the war, he married a German woman and studied to be a physician.

They moved to Poland where he was the head of a clinic, but later had to leave after new anti-Semitic pressures.

They emigrated to Sweden.

"I am a born optimist. I am not a believer, I have only hope. I hope that the common sense will become most important, and that the fanatics, the extreme sorts and ideas will be defeated by common sense, by liberalism. Live and let live," Weintraub said.

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