Holocaust survivor recalls kindness of US troops
Another survivor of the train near Magdeburg appears. International Holocaust Remembrance Day, 2012. I hope she finds her way to this site so she can meet her actual liberators! Thanks for Leslie Meisels for tipping us off to the article. Aliza’s memoir of life in the Warsaw Ghetto and beyond is very moving and can be found here.
Aliza Vitis-Shomron on Thursday vividly recalled her brush with death on the eve of her liberation from the Nazis in 1945.
The survivor, who spoke on a panel at the Kibbutz Yad Mordechai Holocaust Museum the day before the world marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day, said a rumor had spread among the group of Jewish prisoners she was part of in Poland that they were about to be murdered.
Rather than surrendering them to the Allies closing in from the east and west, the prisoners feared their captors were planning to plunge their train into the Elbe River and drown everyone.
“Panic and fear spread quickly,” recalled the Polish-born Israeli who survived the Warsaw Ghetto and the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany. “Just as we were at the point of despair, two American tanks came rolling down a hill and saved us.”
The feeble Jewish prisoners emerged from the train and embraced the stunned soldiers of the US 30th Armored Division.
“We were crying with joy,” she said. “The American soldiers didn’t know what to do and they showered us with chocolates and cigarettes.”
Vitis-Shomron said she did not feel that she had defeated the Nazis.
“I did not triumph,” said Vitis-Shomron, an educator who has four great-grandchildren.
“What happened accompanies me, but I try to live and live well. I try to teach humanitarian values to our youths. We must never do upon others what was done to us.”
The panel Vitis-Shomron was part of at Yad Mordechai, the kibbutz named after the leader of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (Mordechai Anielewicz), included Simcha “Kojak” Rotem, who fought in the uprising, and former defense minister Moshe Arens.
It was one of many events held in Israel and around the world commemorating the remembrance day.
On Wednesday, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor, American Jewish Committee Executive Director David Harris and members of the newly formed World Forum of Russian Jewry met at United Nations headquarters to honor the memory of those killed by the Nazis.
The AJC head said the lesson learned from the murder of six million Jews required the world to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear capabilities.
“This past September, indeed on these grounds, the notorious Holocaust denier, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, spoke,” Harris said. “To their credit, several UN member ambassadors walked out, but, shamefully, the majority stayed in the General Assembly hall and applauded his remarks.”
The president of the World Forum of Russian Jewry, Ukrainian businessman Alexander Levin, joined the call urging the UN to take action against the Islamic Republic.
More Holocaust memorial events are planned for Israel and around the world on Friday.
Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon and ambassadors from more than a dozen countries including Germany, the US, Egypt and the Philippines are set to gather at the Massuah Institute for Holocaust Studies at Kibbutz Tel Yitzhak near Netanya to take part in a memorial ceremony.
The UN designated January 27, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by the Red Army, as International Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2005. It is marked by governments and organizations around the world.
Israel, however, observes its official Holocaust Remembrance Day on the 26th of Nissan, the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, according to the Jewish calendar. Its selection reflects the Jewish state’s preference to emphasize Jewish resistance to the Nazis.