Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Survivor donates items smuggled from Nazi death camp

A 95-year-old Auschwitz survivor donated jewelery he took from the clothing of Jews who were gassed to death at the Nazi camp to Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum on Monday. 
Polish-born Meyer Hack, who now lives in Boston, found the gems while sorting the clothing of victims sent to die in the gas chambers, which was his job at the camp where his mother, brother and two sisters perished. He hid the eight rings, watches and brooches of diamond and gold beneath his barracks.
Hack said he took the jewels with him stuffed in a sock on what was known as a winter's "death march" from the camp in Poland to Dachau camp, near Munich, in Germany, in January 1945. He escaped Dachau and hid until World War Two ended.
As he handed over the jewelery to the museum, Hack told of his experiences at Auschwitz, where he survived for more than two years as hundreds of thousands of others died. "Anne Frank wrote a famous diary, my diary is deep in my heart. There is no detergent in the world that can erase my diary," Hack said.
Hack, among hundreds of Polish Jews deported from his home town of Ciechanow, broke down as he spoke about how he had to sort and bundle the clothes of victims forced to disrobe before they were gassed.
He said he had walked passed the open doors of the gas chambers and seen bodies piled up and the victims' bloodied faces, apparently from clawing each other to get out. He saw the bodies of a woman and baby she had been nursing.

Yehudit Shenhav, an official at Yad Vashem, said the museum has collected some 22,000 artifacts from survivors such as Hack, and that many handed them over in later life as a way to record their ordeal.
German officers executed prisoners caught with any smuggled items and Hack watched three friends hanged for similar deeds.

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