From Two Survivors
The following are the remarks of the second speaker, Rabbi Murray Kohn.
Friends, fellow Americans, veterans of WWII, members of the 89th US Army Division, defenders and liberators.
Fifty years in the annuals of history is no more than a distant echo, but in the story of human beings it is virtually a lifetime.
Just imagine. Fifty years ago, when the 89th Army Division accidentally stumbled upon the concentration camp deeply hidden in the hillside of the Thuringia region on April 4, 1945, just two days after the nazi guards rounded up and hurriedly set us on death marches towards Buchenwald Concentration Camp. I was as the rest of my inmate prisoners, worthless in their eyes. Totally disposable. Very few of us, the hapless and hopeless walking skeletons reaching Buchenwald. And I was barely 16 years old and two and a half years of concentration camps behind me we were destined to die in a ravine, a ditch, or forest, or for that matter in any place at any time and when behind the marching formation.
It has been recorded that in Ordruf itself the last days were a slaughterhouse. We were shot at, beaten and molested. At every turn went on the destruction of the remaining inmates. Indiscriminant criminal behavior (like the murderers of Oklahoma City some days ago). Some days before the first Americans appeared at the gates of Ordruf, the last retreating Nazi guards managed to execute with hand pistols, literally emptying their last bullets on whomever they encountered leaving them bleeding to death as testified by an American of the 37th Tank Battalion Medical section, 10 a.m. April 4, 1945.
Today I'm privileged thanks to G-d and you gallant fighting men. I'm here to reminisce, and reflect, and experience instant recollections of those moments. Those horrible scenes and that special instance when an Allied soldier outstretched his arm to help me up became my re-entrance, my being re-invited into humanity and restoring my inalienable right to a dignified existence as a human being and as a Jew. Something, which was denied me from September 1939 to the day of liberation in 1945. I had no right to live and survived, out of 80 members of my family, the infernal ordeal of Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Ordruf, and its satellite camp Crawinkle and finally Theresinstadt Ghetto-Concentration Camp.
I must tell you something about Crawinkle, just outside Ordruf. It was recently discovered after the reunification of east and West Germany that in nearby Crawinkel, the Nazis were preparing the Fuhrerbunker, the final headquarters of Hitler from where he planned to strike a deal with the Americans to join in fighting the Red Army. We worked around the clock, the project was known as the Olga Project. We were excavating inside the hills a bunker. Ten thousand people died there and it was completed with rivers of blood right down to the cutlery to embellish Hitler's table.
When in Auschwitz my eyes witnessed the gassed transports of Jews at the Birkenau Crematories. My own eyes have witnessed Buchenwald terror and planned starvation. My body was decimated, starved and thrashed to the point of no return in Ordruf for stealing a piece of a potato, and my flickering life was daily, and hourly on the brink of being snuffed out from starvation or being clubbed for no reason or literally being pushed off a steep cliff over a yawning ravine at Crawinkel.
And finally you came, you American soldiers and the Allied Armies and set us free. War historians pay much detailed attention to the execution of military plans and operations. They evaluate strategic decisions, timing, logistics, supplies and systems to secure the ability to attain objectives with the least casualties and losses. They ponder over the victories and failures. This is good study and still better for military schools to learn from experience. But the overwhelming American and Allied superiority of arms, which overwhelmed the Nazi hordes and their partners, is only secondary to the victory which you have secured over the cannibals of the 20th century.
The war was intrinsically a war against the shallowness of a civilization which had evidently so little moral depth a nation which can acquiesce in such a short time to the demagoguery of a "corporal" and accept the manifesto of racial superiority, entitled to destroy their supposed inferior enemies, as a moral right. World War II was by far not a testing ground of arms or strategic skills and sophistication, but A MORAL WAR, which declared that human rights, freedom and the equality of all men and women are the highest divine commandment, the supreme commandment deny the Nazi racists and their cohorts any victory. My friends, many of your comrades (a half million Americans lost their lives to declare eternal war against inhumanity). Six million innocent Jews, five million Christians and some 27 million plus, lost their lives to secure finally that humanity is never to rest until crimes against humans have been eradicated (And Oklahoma City's tragedy is just a reminder that our work is not yet complete).
You were there and remember the horrific inferno of Ordruf when you entered it, together with this American Nation, have come today to specifically commemorate, to remember not as much the victory but the shattering and indelible experience when confronting the results of the Nazi cult and supported by a nation that tolerated it.
I salute you for your moral uprightness. I admire your dedication to memory not as an end-all but as a lesson to be remembered and taught especially in the last few days on our own soil, that it may never be repeated and to never have compassion for such dastardly evil whether it was the Nazis or fifty years later in disguise but the same evil cowards.
I am proud of you and our Allies and as those who saved my ebbing life and restored in me, and my fellow survivors, our trust in man. I admire our American military whose moral standards equal the heroism you have shown in the past and displaying today.
With remembering Ordruf and such like horrifying encounters you have augmented the ethical standards off the American nation whose password is: To preserve human lives and grant freedom to the downtrodden.
This is a very proud moment in my life, to share this 50th anniversary of memory and dedication to remember not to forget. No more Holocausts. No more deadly and dastardly violence. 50 years ago you began the greatest of battles against the enemies of mankind. You destroyed the Nazi power. You freed the victims of the Nazis, liberated the world from Fascism, and the battle is still going on as witnessed by all of us in our country. May you and all of us to secure the final victory over hatred as our generation of victims and liberators is slowly fading into eternity. May you as liberators and us, the liberated, be remembered for the pr9ice we paid, and may the perpetrators of the Holocaust be forever shunned as moral misfits from our midst and the perpetrators of Nazi tactics never be forgiven.
G-d bless you all. We shall always remember you for your kindness and humanness. Thank you.
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