Survivor Stories

“You had to want to live.” – Dr. Susan Cernyak-Spatz

No event in modern history highlights more effectively the dangers of indifference in the face of hatred and discrimination than the Holocaust. Here we honor those who endured one of history’s darkest eras.

Susan Cernyak-Spatz

She was a young student when Hitler’s rise to power in the 1930s traumatized the life of her family in Austria.

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Susan Cernyak-Spatz stayed in Theresienstadt until January, 1943 when she was sent on transport “East” which by that time meant Auschwitz. Due to the fact that Auschwitz-Birkenau was a labor-cum-extermination camp, she was selected for “outside work” and managed to survive the first critical two months in which prisoners in Birkenau either survived typhus and the other many diseases running rampant in the camp or died. In the course of the two years in which she was in the camp, she learned the rules of survival which included an “inside job” to avoid the daily selections, marching to and from backbreaking outside work, or the only alternative, going into the “gas.”

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Mrs. Suly Chenkin

In 1944, Chenkin’s parents smuggled her outside of the ghetto in a potato sack, just weeks before thousands of Jews were sent to concentration camps abroad. Chenkin’s parents were later sent to separate camps.

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My story begins and ends with a prophecy uttered by my grandmother at the moment I was born. “This child,” she said, “because she was born on the first day of the Jewish New Year, will be lucky her entire life.”

Six months later the Nazis invaded Lithuania and the word “luck” disappeared for all of us Jewish people living in that country.

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