Halina Birenbaum

“March of the Living”, Yom HaShoah, 26 Nisan 5765, 5.5.2005

I Remember Their Mutual Love, Their Passion to Live

To the Youth for the 60th Year since the Liberation of Auschwitz

Translated from Hebrew by Ada Holtzman

So many thoughts, feelings and words force themselves to the heart and to the lips, in this great day, 60 years to the liberation of death camp Auschwitz ! So much there is still to deliver to the world, to explore, to clarify! Endless memories, human experiences over the abyss, which already mean to the new generations a faraway and incomprehensible past – history…
The frightening symbolic name “AUSCHWI TZ ” in our present world, full of problems and various conflicts, less and less can tell the humanity what is its meaning – how many lost lives, sufferings in vain, torture, death. And it is very difficult to reconcile with the fact that time and lack of knowledge will blur their traces, and decrease the understanding and the ability to draw the necessary conclusions for the future.
To our regret, those who experience those tortures are leaving us. They tried with all their forces to give witness in order to penetrate to the human memory so that it will never happen again. New generations coming to the world and for them these memories are absolutely distant, incomprehensible, indescribable, as if they are not their concern. Especially, as they are frighteningly tragic, and from tragedies and grief human beings prefer to run away than think deeply…
But this should not happen and this is forbidden! Erasing hard facts from the personal and collective memory is simply dangerous. Without the past there is no future.
I was 10 years only when the war broke out in September 1939, and 13 years old when I was taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau after being in the gas chamber already in Majdanek for one whole night, because the Germans did not have gas at that night.
My mother taught me in Ghetto Warsaw during the mass deportations to say I am seventeen years, because Jewish children did not enter the camps; they with the old or sick were sent to extermination, directly to the gas chambers, to the crematorium, to burning. I was miraculously saved from four death camps. All my family, except one brother, was exterminated in the gas chambers of Treblin ka , Majdanek and Auschwitz .
A number from Auschwitz was tattooed on my arm – the identity card of Auschwitz … No digit has been erased or blurred in the course of time, and so not a single crumb of memory has been forgotten of these years where evil was omnipotent and ruled exclusively.
During all these years since my liberation I do not stop telling about what I experienced there and to what I witnessed. All through the years of my life I carry within myself the image of those who were exterminated, my mother, my father, my brother, my sister-in-law, my friends who shared the same fate like me in the ghetto and the concentration camps, their superhuman sufferings and their death. They are engraved in my soul like this number which is carved on my arm.
I remember their mutual love, their clinging on to the tiniest sparkles of hope, to maintain human values under conditions of hell on earth, to save their dear ones, to preserve their belief in a better world, their passion to live. And in the last remains of their powers, in their dying eyes was the plea to be remembered, that once they were among the living and they so much wanted to be, to exist in this world.
Their prayer to life – liberation was not fulfilled. And me, as one of them, although I was more fortunate than them, I survived and arrived to the great day – 60th year of Auschwitz liberation, ask with all my heart to deliver their plea to be remembered and to a better and a more just world.
Paths of destiny cannot be changed, bringing back to life those tortured to death in Auschwitz and other extermination camps, but we surly can remember them and try our utmost that the evil will not defeat again human values, humanity. And especially the youth is capable of that, and youth is the future of the world.