CALGARY- On the 70th anniversary of the liberation of about 7,000 prisoners at the Auschwitz death camp in Poland, a Calgary survivor spoke about her family’s horrific ordeal.
Bronia Cyngiser was just seven years old when she and her family were sent to the camp run by German Nazi soldiers.
“We were afraid every day,” said Cyngiser. “It could be any day it’s going to be our turn when we’d get gassed.”
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Cyngiser and her family survived because they were able to work but hundreds of thousands were not so lucky, most of them Jews.
Now 82 years old, Cyngiser chooses to remember that nightmarish experience but the memories still haunt her.
“I see the chimneys and the black smoke just going in circles,” said Cyngiser. “We have to speak about it. We have to teach the young people that it can happen any time… how they can guard against it.”
In Poland today, about 300 survivors joined several world leaders to remember the liberation of the camp’s prisoners brought about by the Soviet Union’s Red Army. The event was held under a massive tent covering the gate and railroad tracks of Birkenau where where Jews and others were transported by train and murdered in Nazi gas chambers. But Cyngiser says she chose not to attend.
“I just couldn’t bring myself to go back there,” said Cyngiser. “Too many bad memories.”
Cyngiser regularly speaks to Calgary students about life in the camp and warns of the dark places where intolerance and hatred can lead, something human rights advocates say is an important lesson.
“They understand that their behavior, the way they treat each other, all of a sudden has something to do with genocide happening,” said Ilana Krygier-Lapides with the Calgary Jewish Federation. And the kids get it… they really get it.”