tv CNN Special Report CNN February 6, 2015 6:00pm-7:01pm PST
biden's office will be traveling while netanyahu in washington. up next, voices of auschwitz by wolf blitzer starts now. the following is a cnn special report. these gates mark the site of one of history's greatest horrors. >> we are the biggest cemetery of the world here. >> during the holocaust, more than one million jews were murdered here at auschwitz. >> all my aunts, my uncles, everybody's dead now. >> part of hitler's plan to wipe out the jewish people. >> we saw my mother. she went straight to the gas chamber. >> liberated 70 years ago, only a fraction of the prisoners survived.
>> i was crawling on the bare floor because i couldn't walk. >> beaten, but not broken. >> the real story is what i accomplished there. >> these are the stories that must never be forgotten. these are the voices of auschwitz. >> i am a survivor of auschwitz. ♪ we lived in a tiny village that nothing went on the map. it had a hundred families. >> i was the first born, so i was very special therethere.
>> i had three girls. it was a very happy childhood. >> we had a beautiful home. my father had a very good business. he had a men's tailoring and textile business. >> culture was written in very big letters in my family. the classics, german classics, were read to us on sundays. everybody had to learn an instrument. we were the typical german-jewish family. >> we were upper middle class jews. as a child, i never experienced any anti-semitism. we had a wonderful childhood. >> it was all very gradual. you see, i never knew that it was a problem to be jewish. i must have been 8 years old. i was wiping the blackboard and
somebody said don't give the jews the sponge. i said what the hell is going on here? >> because we were concerned, my father bought a battery operated radio and i remember hearing hitler's voice. it was always yelling. i would ask my parents -- who is hitler? and why is he yelling and why is he saying that he will kill all the jews? most of my parents said, don't worry, hitler won't come here, the nazis won't come here. >> if it had been less gradual, my father would have been more conscious that has to get out of here. >> it was 1944, mid-march.
>> it was passover. >> they came on horses and said pack food and clothing. >> they surrounded the house. they give us one hour. >> all of the villagers lined the streets. not one single one of them, not even my best friends, said they were sorry. >> every jew was on the street. we had to walk 14 kilometers to the train station. >> we were loaded on to the cattle cars. nobody spoke. there was silence through the whole journey. they didn't give us any food or any water. >> there was no bathrooms. nothing.
>> there was a bucket, an empty bucket, in the corner. 100 people were packed in our cattle car. >> they didn't open up for air or nothing. >> i would doze off and it would become more like a nightmare, that you were fading in and out of it. >> we didn't realize that the journey's going to last three days. we were actually traveling all over picking up jews. >> the end of the third day, the train stopped. i heard latches. the doors opened. the crowd was pushing as they were coming out of the cattle car. they were pushing. i was standing there trying to figure out, what is this place?
the kitchen door opens and the fraulein walks in. everybody jumps up. achtung. rumors in the camp that i was going to be shot. the real question that needs to be asked is "what is it that we can do that is impactful?" what the cloud enables is computing to empower cancer researchers. it used to take two weeks to sequence and analyze a genome; with the microsoft cloud we can analyze 100 per day. whatever i can do to help compute a cure for cancer, that's what i'd like to do. ready for another reason to switch to t-mobile?, how about getting america's best unlimited 4g lte family plan.
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packed in a cattle car like this one with 20 other people. when the doors opened she was here at auschwitz. rene and her sister were told go to the right, their mother to the left and straight to the gas chamber. >> they had a beautiful public swimming pool and this was taken only a few months before we were deported.
they always played music and they played the song "it's now or never." and even today, when i hear that song, how we didn't know that it's now or never. >> the first thing we heard was the loud speakers that were telling us to leave our suitcases at the railroad station. my sister was telling me, wait
for mother and dad. and that's when i looked around and i realized that i will never find them. it was impossible. when they were loading the trucks, we saw my mother. she went straight to the gas chambers. about three days later, when a group of men were marching, i recognized my father. i saw him in the striped uniform with a shaved head, and i was trying to hide from him. i didn't want him to see us, my sister and i, knowing what it would do to him to see us the way we looked, also with the shaved heads, in a rag.
but as he rode, our eyes locked. i saw him crying and i was crying. and at that point we knew that something terrible has happened to us. that was really the first time that i realized that this is a hopeless situation. i was worried about my sister because she was skinny and tall and so young, especially when we were separated. every morning through the wires could see each other and say to each other, i'm still here, don't worry. i'm still here. then she didn't come the second day and the third day. and then i knew that she must have been taken away.
every day i thought, it will end soon. don't worry, it will end soon. i went in to the kitchen and the head kitchen maid was a girl from my hometown. she knew that i was studying to be a designer. she says to me, rene, we don't need you peel potatoes. i'll give you some paper and pencil and why don't you draw some pictures for us of gowns that we will be wearing if we survive and we'll go to a new year's eve party. i sat and i was drawing. everybody was looking, coming over and talking about it and having a little fun really. we did notice that a commander
is on her way to the kitchen and the kitchen door opens and the fraulein walks in. everybody jumps up, achtung, and these pictures are flying all over the kitchen. she bends down, picks up one of these pictures, looks at it and yells -- who made this. and i said i did. she says follow me. rumors are in the camp that i was going to be shot. she takes me to her apartment. in the closet is a sewing machine. she picks one of the pictures and she says to me, can you make this? i never made a gown in my life, but of course. i can make it. what, i'm going to say i can't?
a few days later, the camp is liberated and i didn't have to finish the gown, fortunately. the russian soldier rides in and he tells us that the war is over. this officer jumps off that horse, comes around the women, starts hugging them, kissing them and cries. then he stands out in the middle of these women and he beats his chest and he yells to us, [ speaking german ] "i'm also a jew." and we all start crying. yes. that was our liberation. that was probably the worst time
of my life, wondering did any of my parents survive, did my sister survive, or even my brother, where is he? where am i going? we were roaming around europe, hitchhikin hitchhiking. and in budapest, we found out that there is a school where survivors come and sign in so that those who are looking for somebody may find somebody in those lists. and i was there a whole day, found nobody. and on the way out, there was a swinging door and i pushed on the door to leave, and somebody was pushing from the other side so i stepped back. and the door opened and my brother was there.
we settled in prague and we started an industry. my brother was an artist. we bought some silk parachutes and we made circular skirts, my brother painted on them and we were selling them and we made a lot of money. we arrived to america. life started all over again. i was a successful fashion designer here. i'm still here 70 years later. i am in awe and in shock and amazement that i am still here. i really never thought of revenge. there is no other revenge. auschwitz.
i wake up with it, i go to bed with it. my name is rene firestone and i am an auschwitz survivor. the story that shapes me as a person is my father. he said that if you don't survive, you honor us by living. >> nice, right? >> good. well, a mortgage shouldn't be a problem, your credit is in pretty good shape. >>pretty good? i know i have a 798 fico score, thanks to the tools and help on experian.com. kaboom... well, i just have a few other questions. >>chuck, the only other question you need to ask is,
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here at auschwitz say -- "work makes you free." martin greenfield was sent to work as a tailor. when he ripped a guard's shirt, it could have finished him. instead, it saved his life. ♪ >> we were the last transport. i was 14 years old. that's when my life stopped being what it was. my name is martin greenfield and i survived auschwitz and i'm happy about it. you see the gates to get in to the camp.
you see the guys who come to help get us off, the prisoners, in their stripes and they were not talking to us. i was still a kid. you know. they showered us and they gave us the stripes. they gave us some kind of a shoe. no socks. no underwear. nothing. and then my father and i got tattooed together. and then my father sat down with me and he said, "you're strong, i'm strong, we're both going to survive. you got discipline. you learned things. we taught you how to survive, how to live.
when i got to auschwitz, they put me in the tailor shop. i wanted to build cars. i was a grease monkey. i didn't know anything about tailoring. i was a kid. the tailor i could speak to, he spoke jewish. and i said to him, what should i do here? he said, well, you could wash the shirt for the gestapo. take a soap and take a brush and rub it until it is clean. it was so dirty, i kept on rubbing it until it is ripped up. he says then there is a little problem, he says, because tomorrow he's coming for the shirt. so i said, well what can i do? i'm going to show him it's ripped. he wasn't too happy about it, he said, who ripped the shirt? i said me. he gave me a little beating but he threw the shirt at me. so i asked the tailor, can you
show me how to fix the collar so i can have a shirt? nobody has a shirt. he says i'll fix you a shirt. so i put it on. guess what? i ripped another shirt. i got beaten up for another shirt. that's two shirts. and those shirts i used to shower in, i used to wear them, and nobody ever stopped me. it was that march when the russians were coming. so 10,000 people started. 500 of us arrived. i was one of them. i don't know if it was worth all the shirt. it made me feel warmer because i had something below. it taught me something, how important it is to be dressed right. it had a big influence on me. i came here and with borrowed $10 in my pocket. i started here for $35 a week
but i wanted to learn everything perfectly. all my teachers who taught me here, tailors, everybody, i always wanted to be better than them. we make very special handmade clothing. the people that i dress, the presidents, going back to eisen hour to mayor bloomberg who retired, clinton. they try on my suit that we measure here. they don't recognize themselves. when i came to work here, i had to do it the right way everything. that's why i became what i am.
all my aunts and my uncles, everybody's dead now, but i never went to any funerals for my family because when you don't see them, you never believe that they die. they never touched anybody. they only helped other people. why would they die? it's inconceivable. now there's my biggest problem. but it is not a problem for me because i will never forget it. the story that shapes me as a person is my father. because before we were
separated, he said if he don't survive, you honor us by living. so my past is sad, but my future is great. i have a new family. i have four grandchildren. my two sons work with me. i'm happy. how could you not be happy when you have your sons working with you? i hope i could work for the next until i'm 100 because i've got the energy. and if god keeps me here that time and my head works, then i'll be here. the last time you saw your mother was right here on this platform. >> all i remember is seeing her arms stretched out as she was pulled away.
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ever remember, yelling, screaming, dogs barking, people looking for one another. >> when you heard them screaming in german, you thought what? >> i was only 10 years old and i looked around trying to figure out what on earth is this place? my mother grabbed my twin sister and me as we stood here on this selection platform 70 years ago. we were holding on to mother and nazi was yelling in german "twins." he noticed us because we were dressed alike and we looked very much alike and he demanded to know from my mother if we are twins. my mother said, is that good? the nazi nodded yes. my mother nodded yes.
that moment, another nazi came and pulled my mother to the right of me, to her left. all i remember is seeing her arms stretched out as she was pulled away. our processing began late in the afternoon and i decided to give them as much trouble as a 10-year-old could. four people restrained me. two nazis and two women prisoners. the heat over the flame of the lamp, when it got hot, they dipped it into ink, my number never came out clear because i was not a very cooperating victim. i beat the nazi holding my arm. this was my home for most of the time i was here, which was almost nine months.
as the barrack was filthy, about 200, 300 children. miriam and i were given a bunk bed on the bottom. one of the biggest problems we had was rats. they were good nazi rats. we would be awakened in the morning at 5:00 a.m. with a shrieking sound of a whistle. mengele would come in to count us every morning. he wanted to know how many guinea pigs he had. we used to be brought here three times a week. there were benches or we would stand. about 100 kids at the time. for eight hours neighborhoondad. for eight hours neighborhoondne. they would measure just about
every part of my body. compare it to my twin sister and then compare it to, then measuring/comparing, measuring, comparing. >> they took your blood. >> from vials, from my left arm and give a minimum of five injections into my right arm. how we didn't faint, i don't know. i tried to hide the fact that i was ill because the rumor in the camp was that anyone taken to the hospital never came back. they measured my fever and i knew i was in trouble. i was immediately taken to the hospital. it was filled with people who looked more dead than alive. next morning, dr. mengele and four other doctors came. and then he began laughing sarcastically saying, too bad. she's so young.
she has only two weeks to live. for the next two weeks, i remember only one memory. i was crawling on the back floor because i wouldn't walk. i would faint in and out of consciousness. and even in a semi-conscious state of mind, i kept telling myself, i must survive. i must survive. it was late in the afternoon of january 27, 1945. it was a saturday afternoon and somebody had a watch because i clearly remember seeing it was 4:30. a woman ran into the barrack and began yelling at the top of her voice, "we are free! we are free!"
they were smiling from ear to ear and the most important thing for me was that they didn't look like the nazis. the most dramatic part of it was to see the children marching between two rows of barbed wires. they gave us chocolate and hugs. and this was my first taste of freedom. how miriam and i ended up on the front, i do not know. i did not remember that we were in the front. this is so iconic. i recognize myself. >> and now 70 years later, you're here. >> i am here and i can tell the story.
i discovered that i survived auschwitz and mengele's experiment. i had the power to forgive. i am not possessed by anger and fear. i can rise above it. and to me, that is the ultimate victory. my name is eva moses kor. i am a survivor of auschwitz. we were a sort of showpiece. you know? if anybody came to visit, they didn't show the gas chambers. they'd show us. we were the showpiece.
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6- my mother was a violinist. there was always music in the house. my elder sister played the piano. my other sister played the violin. i've got pictures of me pretending to play the cello on a children's loom. i was singing to myself. cello has become sort of the red line through the life. ♪ >> my name is anita laske-bolfisch. i am a survivor of auschwitz.
we arrived at night. and we waited all night in the dark. and the next morning came the situation which in a way saved my life, because of various prisoners due to tattooing and the shaving of hair, et cetera. and the girl who was doing me, she asked me what i was doing before the war. i said i used to play the cello. you know. it seems completely ridiculous thing to say in auschwitz, "i play the cello." fantastic, she said. you'll be safe. i was naked, without hair. i had a toothbrush in my hand. it was already a great privilege. she must have slipped me a toothbrush. a toothbrush was fantastic.
and then i didn't understand anything. because she was quite well-dressed and we had a conversation about cello playing. where did you study. you cannot imagine a more unbelievable situation. she said, well, fantastic, we haven't got a cello in the orchestra. the orchestra was just being created and everybody who could play anything, little bit of mandolin, scratching on the violin, it was a very peculiar collection. there were five people who could play the instruments. the rest were all people trying to be saved into this so-called temporary survivor possibility. she said to me, look, you have to go to quarantine, but we'll fetch you to the music group and you'll play. so now i was in this quarantine block. i mean for god's sake, that was really terrible. not many people got out of there.
then they fetched me. and said, where's the cellist? i hadn't played the cello for two years. i said, well, excuse me, i must see if i can still move my fingers. i wasn't particularly frightened no the to pass the audition. i was a savior. they didn't have low notes in the orchestra. every camp had some sort of band. you know? but we were the only one really that consisted of children, more or less. and then there was alma. she was very, very strict. we were almost more afraid of her than of the ss. but she somehow managed to i think let us be more afraid of what we were doing than looking out of the window and seeing the smoke. it was a sort of complete escape mechanism.
i can't remember what we sounded like but some people say we weren't too bad. march militaire by schubert. i can hear it now. ♪ >> we were the sort of showpiece. you know? if anybody came to visit the camp, they didn't show the gas chambers. they'd show us, we were the showpiece. they'd say, oh, it's not so bad here. there were people who thought it was wonderful to just shut your eyes and forget where you are. ♪ >> and then people would find it very offensive. music, here we are in the biggest cemetery of the world here. without graves. you know? my whole life seems to consist of the most unbelievable
coincidence. like with the shoes i had when i was still a normal person. i had a pair of pigskin shoes that were sort of light leather. we dyed them black, put red laces and put very big pompons at the end of the laces. i had these shoes in auschwitz. then comes the girl who that tattoos me asked what i did before the war. then she looked at my shoes, look, you will a he lose your shoes. give them to me, i can use them. then my sister arrive, sheer coincidence, same girl in the shoes were still there. i know these shoes. yeah, they belong to a girl she's in the orchestra now. that's my sister. the girl who did this came running to my block said, come quick. your sister is here. that's how we met again. and then suddenly one day we were put on a train and sent
off. i didn't think that we were survived because that was completely different from auschwitz. there was nothing there. you just waited to die. that's all. but the feeling to actually go away from auschwitz was fantastic. we're going away from here! i mean you didn't care where we were going, as long as we are going away from this unspeakable hell. >> the war in europe has ended. the hour for which the world has been six years waiting has come. >> it was an unbelievable moment, the liberation. when we saw the first british uniform, oh, my god. they're soldiers who don't want to kill us.
we just couldn't believe it really. we thought maybe we're dreaming. oh, no. actually, british uniforms we see. then came the terrible realization what are we doing now? where do we belong? do i go back home? nobody there that i know. my parents are dead. i came to england and i suppose my only idea was to catch up eight years that i've lost and become a musician. and i was lucky, i met a lot of very good musicians and soon eventually we went on the bbc. this is where we belonged somehow. i never really accepted that nobody has a right to murder me because i happen to be jewish. forgiveness, is not for me to
forgive. how can i forgive somebody -- how can i forgive? it's not for me. but i can go on. survival was complete luck. it was very lucky to live. when i walked down the rail line to where the crematorium were, i just felt the ghosts. i just felt the ghosts. why do we do it? why do we spend every waking moment, thinking about people? why are we so committed to keeping you connected? why combine performance with a conscience?
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auschwitz. it haunts us to this very day. >> it was one of the most efficient killing machines that anyone has ever experienced throughout history. >> walking these grounds changed steven spielberg's life forever, as it did mine. i walked under that sign work will make you free. >> work will make you free, yes. >> and then i walked to the crematorium, the gas chambers, and it was a powerful, powerful moment.
>> the second time i with went to auschwitz with my wife, a rabbi took us, and we said a pray prayer, and he asked me to come over near where where the remains of the crematory ya were laid. he said you could put your hand in this sort of like mud hole. and i did. it was very soggy. it had been raining. i put my hand in there and i brought my hand out and there was white sort of bone meal all over my hands. because the remains of everyone over those years of mass murder rain back down on to the earth and they're still there. and that's something i'll take to my grave. >> despite all of your brilliant films, you've said this is really your calling. >> i think it is. i didn't know it was my calling until "schindler's list" came into my life. i invited some of the survivors whose stories we were telling to come to poland at our expense and watch us shoot the scenes where this were being
represented by actors. >> how did you survive? >> by miracle. >> one of the survivors came over to me and said, i have a very, very big story to tell you. and all i'm asking from you is do you have a tape recorder you can turn on so you can remember my words? so my words can be somewhere in perpetuity. when she said that to me, it suddenly occurred to me that this was something more than a movie, that the movie was going to be a foot in the door to open up these testimonies and disseminate them all over the word, encouraging very courageous survivors to tell us their stories. >> in the middle of each cattle car was a bucket. >> i remember running out to the fence where we were locked in. >> she was wounded so they killed her right on the spot. >> death was all around. >> it has a special meaning to you, not only as a filmmaker but as a person, but also as a jew. >> yes, this was my renewal as a
jew. this entire experience of directing "schindler's list," then founding the survivors of the shoah history foundation. in 1994. we have 53,500 heroes in our visual history archive. >> we hear from four auschwitz survivors. anita was a cellist. young girl. martin was a tailor. rene was also a designer in the making. eva was a 10-year-old little girl when she was brought to auschwitz. why did they survive whereas others died? just to say luck, that's not enough. >> it's not luck. >> it's more than that. >> these survivors somehow hung on tenaciously to life. whatever didn't cause their death, disease, hypothermia, murder, somehow this group of kids made it out.
and were able to lead very, very productive and also inspired lives. >> unfortunately, the number of survivors out there is dwindling. >> which is why this commemoration of the liberation of auschwitz seven years later is so important. there aren't going to be enough survivors for the 75th commemoration. this is the last significant commemoration of the worst atrocity in, i believe, in human history, but their stories will live on. >> my name is eva moses kor. >> my name is martin greenfield. >> my name is anita lasker. >> my name is rene firestone. >> i believe everybody who gives their testimony become teachers in perpetuity. >> i am a survivor. >> i am a survivor. >> i survived auschwitz. >> auschwitz. >> auschwitz. >> and i'm happy to be here with >> and i'm happy to be here with you.
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