It is Thanksgiving Weekend here in Canada.
Saw this very poignant letter in the Calgary Herald this morning and had to pass it on.
I am 86 years old, Catholic and one of the two still-living eyewitnesses, who as members of the Auschwitz Prisoners Fire Brigade, were sent to extinguish the fire of the crematorium buildings set by the rebelling Jews in the wooded part of Auschwitz called Birkenau.
This happened on Saturday, Oct. 7, 1944.
This year, the 65th anniversary of this little-known event, it is my sacred duty to remember these Jewish heroes. They sacrificed their lives in the uneven battle with the SS guards.
They killed three SS officers and burnt to the ground crematorium and gas chamber No. 4 and destroyed and made unfit crematorium and gas chamber No. 2.
We, the 65,000 prisoners still in Auschwitz at the time, were elated. It was unbelievable and fantastic news.
These Jewish prisoners of Hungarian and Russian origins lifted our spirits. They proved that the SS were not invincible and that a day of reckoning was coming for their crimes.
Sigmund Sobolewski, Fort Macleod
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Other Holocaust survivors have settled around the Lethbridge Area (Ft. Mcleod is only 30-35 miles West).
In 2007, I did a public lecture at the Galt Museum on that horrid piece of lies, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The lecture was part of their “Galt Cafe” series and was scheduled to coincide with the exhibit on the life of Eva Brewster, a survivor who had passed away shortly before. Here is the blurb for the exhibit:
In celebration of Hitler’s birthday, 1000 young Jews were transported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp on April 20, 1943. 21-year old Eva Brewster, her husband, baby daughter and mother were among that transport. Her husband and baby daughter, along with 991 others, did not survive… they were among the estimated 1.5 million people who died at Auschwitz-Birkenau between 1940 and 1945.
Settling in southern Alberta after the war, Eva’s life became dedicated to exposing the horrors of the Shoah [the Holocaust] that it might not ever happen again. Her award-winning book, Vanished in Darkness, and this exhibit continue that promise.
Vanished in Darkness is, sadly, no longer in print.
At my talk at that Galt, I had the pleasure of meeting Chava Rosenfarb who is well known as a Yiddish writer, and has a short article on Wikipedia. Her books are translated into English by her daughter, Goldie Morgentaler, who is a professor of English at the University of Lethbridge. Wikipedia gives this info for Rosenfarb’s books:
The Tree of Life, University of Wisconsin Press, 2004; and Scribe, Melbourne, Australia.
Bocainy, Syracuse University Press, 2000.
Of Lodz and Love, Syracuse University Press, 2000.
Survivors: Seven Short Stories, Cormorant Books, 2005
The letter writer, Mr. Sobolewski also took part in the exhibit:
Sygmund Sobolewski was a 17 year old Polish Roman Catholic who was sent to Auschwitz, as a political prisoner, on June 14, 1940, the day the camp opened.
He survived 4 ½ years of horror in the German death camp. Sygmund watched as other political prisoners, Roma gypsies, homosexuals, common criminals, Russian prisoners of war and over a million Jewish people were forced into hard labour or systemically exterminated.
I don’t know much about the Auschwitz uprising. The site Jewish Resistance in the Holocaust has some information about this and other acts of resistance.
I think if we all remembered this kind of resistance in the face of horrible oppression a little more often-and encouraged governments to do something about it as it unfolds around us, we might all have a lot more to be thankful for.