We walked the hallowed grounds of this most notorious concentration camp and tried to imagine what it was like during this horrific time in human history. We were not successful, as it is beyond comprehension what these millions of innocent victims endured there.
On our transatlantic cruise we had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Henry Oster tell
his story about his personal experience of being born in Cologne, Germany, then spent three years in the Lodz Ghetto, then Birkenau, Auschwitz Plawy (satellite camp) and finally Buchenwald.
His vivid details and recollections of events mesmerized not only us, but the entire audience in the packed theater. He is a man of unbelievable courage and determination, and possessed grace and humility. He never looks at himself as remarkable even though that is exactly what he is.
To our surprise and delight, Dr. Oster called us a day later and wanted to
thank us for our note. He told us that our message to him stood out from the
rest and that if we would like to talk to him personally, just let him know the
time and place. This was an opportunity that we could not pass up.
We met his wife Susie first as we waited for Dr. Oster. She explained how she convinced her husband to share his story with the passengers on our cruise. He did not think anyone would want to hear it and tried to convince the cruise director that he would only need a small venue. The ship’s theater was full to capacity at over 1200 people wanting to hear this incredible story. He was moved to tears several times with the turnout.
we hoped that common sense would prevail and all the hatred in the world would end. He knows firsthand what incomprehensible horrors that mindset can inflict.
He settled back and said that no question was off limits. We had personalized, intimate access to a living piece of history and he provided us with a knowledge that no tour guide can ever provide.
For over two hours he shared what life was like trying to survive in Auschwitz. He provided details of the camp, the soldiers, the hatred, the constant fear. We tried several times to go back with him during his vivid descriptions only to fall short in our attempts. We showed him our pictures from our trip to Auschwitz just weeks prior to the cruise. He confirmed truths we had heard and clarified things that were hazy. We were transfixed as he pointed out minute details that he remembered in our pictures.
He visited Buchenwald for the first time this past April for the 70th anniversary of liberation in 1945. Prior to that he visited Cologne in 2011 for the 70th anniversary of the deportation. In Cologne he was informed that he was the last survivor of the Cologne Jews deported in 1941. And the the only one to ever return to Cologne.
Dr. Oster plans to return to Auschwitz for the first time in May of 2016. It will be for the" March of the Living" with 210 students from Los Angeles but comprising of over 10,000 from all over the globe.
We cannot begin to imagine the vast spectrum of emotions he will go through as he steps back in time, but we wish him the very best as he takes one more step on his remarkable journey.
He is still sharp as a tack and has a recall for detail that is unmatched. It would take us pages to write what we learned from him, but we would suggest that you hear from him yourself. If you want to learn more about his journey, please buy his book The Kindness of the Hangman. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00TQ8IORS/ref=dp-kindle-redirectie=UTF8&btkr=1 He informed us not to purchase the signed copy because he has Amazon send him every book and he personally signs it for you. He will even dedicate the book if you ask.
It was an immense honor to talk with Dr. Oster and one that we will never forget. He made history come alive for us and his willingness to share his incredible and tragic story only makes you want to insure that this type of hatred
is extinguished forever.