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This article was published 24/2/2020 (475 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Angela Orosz-Richt is the youngest Canadian survivor of Auschwitz — and she has a story to tell.
The Montreal resident was born Dec. 21, 1944, in the death camp in German-occupied Poland.
Her mother, Vera Bein, was three months pregnant in May 1944, when she and her husband were deported by the Nazis from Hungary.
"She kept her pregnancy a secret from everyone," said Orosz-Richt, 75, adding her mother was experimented on at Auschwitz by the infamous "Angel of Death," Josef Mengele.
The birth was also kept quiet. "We would have been killed if discovered," she said, noting her father died in the camp.
Baby and mother survived and were liberated Jan. 27, 1945. by the advancing Russian army. (Only one other Jewish baby born in the camp survived, Gyorgy Faludi, born the day of liberation.)
In 1973, Orosz-Richt immigrated to Canada from Hungary, joining her mother who arrived in 1966. For decades, she lived a private, busy life, saying nothing about her experience.
"I was busy making a living, looking after my family," she said, adding "it was too painful to remember."
As well, she didn’t want to reawaken painful memories for her mother, who died in 1992.
All that changed five years ago, when she returned to Auschwitz on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the camp. At first, she didn’t want to go, but now she’s glad she did.
"I woke up," she said of the visit. "I realized God spared me for a reason. It opened my eyes to the need for me to tell my story."
She also wants to acknowledge her mother in her storytelling. "I want to make sure her fight to save my life is not forgotten. In spite of giving birth to me in the worst nightmare imaginable, she never gave up."
Orosz-Richt will share her story Thursday, 7 p.m., at Shaarey Zedek Synagogue, 561 Wellington Cres. Admission is $5.
In addition to making presentations across Canada, Orosz-Richt also volunteers at the Montreal Holocaust Museum and speaks at local schools about the need to fight against racism and anti-Semitism.
"As the years go by, I see how important the work of education is," Orosz-Richt said, noting she still meets people who don’t know about the Holocaust. "We need to tell people the Holocaust is true: it happened."
One of the best ways to do that, she added, is to see and hear a survivor. "That’s different than reading about it in a book. It can wake something in others."
In this, she feels a sense of urgency. "Soon we survivors will all be gone."
Roberta Malam, assistant program director at Winnipeg's Rady Jewish Community Centre, feels the same way.
"In a decade or so, there could be no living witnesses left," she said, noting there about 125 survivors in Winnipeg and an estimated 10,000 in Canada.
Although, as a Jew, she feels a special connection to the Holocaust, it is "everybody’s history," Malam said.
She hopes people will come away from the evening with Orosz-Richt with a renewed sense of hope things can be better for everyone if "we come together, stand up for others and be advocates for change."
John Longhurst has been writing for Winnipeg's faith pages since 2003. He also writes for Religion News Service in the U.S., and blogs about the media, marketing and communications at Making the News.