Auschwitz Survivors Return to Camp After 70 Years

— by Ryan Greiss

Fifteen Auschwitz survivors, between the ages 80 and 94, returned this morning to the infamous camp, some for the first time, ahead of tomorrow’s 70th anniversary celebration of its liberation.

One American survivor who returned the death camp for the first time, Johnny Pekats (80) shared his experience:

When I arrived in Poland, the tall trees made me immediately anxious. They reminded me of my arrival to Auschwitz — the same day my mother and little sister were gassed. For years I refused to return to this horrible place, but I finally decided to come back with my son. I wanted to say Kaddish with him there.

This is my first and last visit to Auschwitz and my message for the word is that it’s not enough just to remember; we have to make sure that this never happens again.

70th Anniversary Commemoration of the Liberation of Auschwitz.

Left to right: World Jewish Congress CEO Robert Singer; Natan Grossman (Germany); Samuel Beller (US); Florence Sprung (US); Manny Buchman (US); Mascha Schainberg (South Africa); Marcel Tuchman (US); Rose Schindler (US); Jonny Pekats (US); Henry Korman (Germany); Ronald Lauder; Mordechai Ronen (Canada); Joseph Madrowitz (US); Edgar Wildfeuer (Argentina).

More than 100 Auschwitz survivors from at least 19 countries have arrived in Poland today as part of the World Jewish Congress’ delegation to participate in the upcoming ceremony and events. Joining the survivors on their visit was the president of the World Jewish Congress, Ronald S. Lauder, who, organized the delegation along with the USC Shoah Foundation.

Lauder said that the survivors showed great courage in participating in the delegation:

For some of them, this was the first time they returned to the place of their nightmares. Each survivor is a living testament to the triumph of good over evil, of life over death, and they are my heroes.

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