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‘Humiliation was the worst’; Holocaust survivor at UN, asks world to act with ‘empathy and compassion’

Mr. Marian Turski, Holocaust Survivor and Chair of the Council of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw speaking at the United Nations Holocaust Memorial Ceremony on 28 January 2019.
Mr. Marian Turski, Holocaust Survivor and Chair of the Council of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw speaking at the United Nations Holocaust Memorial Ceremony on 28 January 2019. -- photo credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe

More than seven decades ago in Auschwitz, Jewish teenager Marian Turski felt he “had no name, he had nothing, but a number” tattooed on his body. Speaking on Monday, at the annual Holocaust Memorial Ceremony, at United Nations Headquarters in New York, the 92-year-old called on the world to express renewed “empathy and compassion”.

Sharing his extraordinary story, he said that the worst part of surviving the Nazi death camps was not the extreme hunger, the coldness or the deteriorating living conditions, but “the humiliation, just because you were Jewish, you were treated not like a human being, you were treated like a louse, a bed bug, like a cockroach”, he told those who had gathered to commemorate.

Mentioning conflicts going on now in Ukraine, Sudan and Yemen, Mr. Turski said that when it came to giving advice today, “the most important words are: empathy and compassion”. He highlighted the importance of “protecting our children” from all catastrophes.

Inge Auerbacher shares her account as a child survivor of Teresienstadt, during the annual United Nations Holocaust Remembrance Ceremony.His story followed testimony from Inge Auerbacher, who was liberated from a different camp, on the same day as Mr. Turski. She described how in the concentration camps “life was especially hard for children, for whom the most important words in their vocabulary were potatoes, bread and soup.”

Inge was born in Germany and spent three years between seven and 10 years of age in the Terezin (Theresienstadt) concentration camp in Czechoslovakia, where only around one per cent of its 15,000 children, survived.

Lamenting the rising wave of anti-Semitism today, Ms. Auerbacher pleaded for everyone across the world to “make good choices”.

“My hope, wish, and prayer, is for every child to live in peace without hunger and prejudice. The antidote to hatred is education, no more genocides, no more anti-Semitism”, she added.

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