Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Haunting Holocaust memories

Local survivor will never forget the horrors of the Nazi camps

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Aron Lieberman, 91, lost his parents and 10 siblings in the Holocaust. After Auschwitz was liberated, he moved to Winnipeg, married and raised a family.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Aron Lieberman, 91, lost his parents and 10 siblings in the Holocaust. After Auschwitz was liberated, he moved to Winnipeg, married and raised a family. Photo Store

In Winnipeg and around the world this week, victims of Nazism will be remembered during Yom Hashoah -- Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Holocaust survivors, family members and others will read the names of those who died.

At 91, survivor Aron Lieberman may not get to the events this year but will always remember the names of loved ones who were killed and the horrors they faced.

"From Auschwitz, I have the number on my hand," said Lieberman of his tattoo number. "I don't forget it."

At 17, he was taken from his rural village in Poland and sent to work camps before being shipped off to the Nazi concentration camp, Auschwitz.

'It was hard to think about, it bothers me. It's painful'

His nine older brothers, sister and parents were killed.

Right before Auschwitz was liberated by Soviet troops in 1945, 1,000 sick and starving people in the camp were shot, Lieberman recalled, his voice breaking with emotion. "They couldn't stand up."

When the Allies arrived, there was joy, relief and bread for the emaciated survivors. The memory of feasting his eyes on the bread with his malnourished camp mates is still fresh for Lieberman.

"When I can have this loaf of bread, I'd be happy," he recalled thinking at the time. Some of the famished who devoured the bread died as a result, Lieberman sobbed.

"People were eating too much. They die when they over-do it."

After Auschwitz, Lieberman went to Amsterdam, then boarded a ship for Montreal in 1952. He was being sent to Winnipeg, where he knew no one. He spoke no English.

"I met a Jewish guy on the train. He said 'You got somebody in Winnipeg? I said "I got nobody'. He said 'Here is my phone number. You go to my house.' " The Yiddish-speaking porter from friendly Manitoba, Jack Lavitt, became a life-long family friend.

"He was a nice man," said Lieberman, a widower with two sons and five grandchildren. He said he's had a happy life in Winnipeg and tried not to reflect on the Holocaust.

"It was hard to think about," Lieberman said. "It bothers me. It's painful." He agreed to talk about it at his grandchildren's school a few years ago and opened up to the Free Press out of a sense of duty to inform future generations.

"I didn't know what happened to him until I went to Israel and met cousins who told me what happened to him and his family," said his son, Jeff Lieberman, who is the master of ceremonies for Monday morning's Yom Hashoah commemoration inside the Manitoba Legislative Building.

He thinks there may be close to 100 Holocaust survivors still alive in Winnipeg.

"As time goes by, there are less and less."

For the past 21 years, the League for Human Rights of B'nai Brith has presented the Holocaust Remembrance Day service at the legislature.

The names of Holocaust victims whose loved ones came to Manitoba are inscribed on the monument at the legislature and read aloud.

By personalizing the individual tragedy of its victims and survivors, the League for Human Rights says it's trying to challenge dangerous trends of indifference and ignorance in recent history. It's an effort to restore some dignity to those who were stripped of their identities and robbed of their lives.

"It's very sad the world doesn't learn from the mistakes of the past," said Jeff Lieberman. "Genocide continues to this day. It's a horrible thing."

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 27, 2014 A3

History

Updated on Sunday, April 27, 2014 at 11:05 AM CDT: Concentration camp was liberated by Soviet troops, not Americans.

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