Watertown— Approximately two-thirds of the 9 million Jews that resided in Europe during the Holocaust were killed, a genocide of an estimated 6 million Jews.
“The worst experience was Auschwitz,” said Holocaust survivor Esther Bauer, set to speak at Jefferson Community College (JCC) February 26th at 7:30 p.m. “I could remember the screams at night and I will never forget the smell of Auschwitz.”
Bauer was born in Hamburg, Germany in 1924 and was 18 years old when Nazis took Bauer and her family to Theresienstadt ghetto, a transit camp for Jews in Czechoslovakia. Bauer came from an educated family of professionals, as her father was a principal of a Jewish girls’ school and her mother, a medical doctor. Her parents would die eventually after 2 years in captivity.
Ms. Bauer was held in several concentration camps for 3 years; one was Freiberg where she spent 9 months doing manual labor building airplanes. Mauthausen in Austria would be the last camp, before Bauer would become liberated. However, out of the various camps she was placed in Auschwitz was the camp that haunts her the most. “We were always so hungry” said Bauer, “and so today, I never complain about food. I appreciate every meal that I have.”
Bauer ended up in Auschwitz after being separated from her new husband, a fellow prisoner whom she married while in one of the camps. The extermination camp is where her husband would soon be killed. Without her parents or husband, Bauer learned to survive through her experiences and says that every moment that she is alive is a gift. A year after her nightmarish ordeal, Bauer remembered the Americans who set her free and decided to move to the United States with just $5 to her name.
“I worked two jobs, saved all my money and now I can live comfortably” said Bauer, simply grateful for all that she has. Bauer now shares her harrowing story of survival with others and hopes to motivate the students at JCC next Wednesday.