So believes Werner Reich, a Holocaust survivor who will speak at the Temple Israel of Riverheadon Sunday at 7 p.m. at a Holocaust Memorial Day Observance.
Also speaking on Sunday will be John D’Aquila, an American solider who helped to liberate a concentration camp. The men will share their memories and insights as part of a program organized in conjunction with the Holocaust Memorial & Tolerance Center of Nassau County.
Reich has dedicated his life to speaking about the atrocities committed during the Holocaust, addressing students and community groups -- hoping to raise awareness.
”I do not want my children and grandchildren to go through the same hell that I went through,” he said. “The importance of remembering the Holocaust is to remind the world what indifference can do. If it had not been for the indifference of the general populations, there never would have been a Holocaust."
Reich, who was born in Germany, escaped to Yugoslavia with his family and lived in hiding until he was arrested by the Gestapo in 1943.
The years that followed were marked by pain: Reich spent two months jailed in Yugoslavia and Austria, followed by 11 months in Terezin, a Czechoslovakian concentration camp.
“From there, I was transferred to Auschwitz 2,” he said, adding that he passed three selections in one day by Josef Mengele, known as the “Angel of Death” for the human experiments he performed on children, despite his assertions that he had never harmed anyone.
“I was one of 89 out of 6000 to have his life spared,” Reich said.
Next, transferred to another section of Auschwitz, in January of 1945 he endured a 7-day Death March by road and open railroad car that ended in the Austrian concentration camp Mauthausen.
“It is there that my toes were amputated because of frostbite and I nearly died from starvation," Reich said.
After two years in the camps, Reich was liberated on May 5. “I lost my mother in the Holocaust,” he said.
After emigrating to America in 1955, Reich became an engineer.
Ethics, Reich believes, should be promoted in school. “It would also be great if, for once, we learned from history. So far, we haven’t. We should make people aware that yes, we are our brothers’ keepers,” he said. “Even if it is inconvenient."