Morris Glass, a Holocaust survivor, visited the Oakwood School and shared his experiences on Tuesday, April 16, 2013. (Aileen Devlin/ The Daily Reflector)
By Katherine Ayers
Thursday, April 18, 2013
Seven decades have done little to erase what Morris Glass endured during World War II. And he wants to do everything he can to make sure no one else has to experience what he did.
“It’s in your hands, it’s in your power to make sure something like this never happens again — not just to the Jewish people, but to anyone else,” the 85-year-old Holocaust survivor said Tuesday as he shared his story with students at The Oakwood School and others at East Carolina University as part of the Holocaust Remembrance Days.
Glass, born in Poland in 1928, described his first 11 years as “very, very happy.” That ended on Sept. 1, 1939, when World War II broke out.
Glass said that within 10 days, the Germans had occupied his city, burned the synagogue and turned it into a horse stable. Jewish stores were closed, telephones and radios were confiscated, and all books were burned. A Jewish ghetto was formed, and people were forced to work in German factories producing items for the “German Nazi machine.”
On May 15, 1942, an order came to “liquidate” the ghetto. Everyone was marched to a local soccer complex, and Schutz Staffeinel (SS) stormtroopers separated the group into three parts: the sick and the elderly, the able-bodied and the infants.
“We stood there in absolute horror as one of the SS stormtroopers grabbed the baby from the arms of its mom and threw it against the concrete wall, and the little tiny body split into many different pieces,” he said in a heavy Polish accent. “That was the brutal and sadistic way of the SS stormtroopers.”
In the summer of 1944, everyone in the ghetto was transported by railroad cattle car to Auschwitz. Glass described it as miles of concentration camps surrounded by high-voltage fences and SS guards with machine guns stationed in towers. Auschwitz also had four crematoriums that ran non-stop.
“The stench of burning human flesh is so distinct it cannot be confused with anything else,” he said. “There were days I would look out at the chimneys, watching the smoke bellowing out of them, and you just wonder who’s turn is it next.”
During his time at Auschwitz, Glass’ father was killed when he became too ill to work. Glass said the SS stormtroopers took his father’s “still-warm” body and pulled his teeth in order to take the gold crowns.
Eventually, the 118 men left (of an original 1,550) in Glass’ camp were transferred to Dachau concentration camp.
“When we marched into Dachau, we were greeted with the infamous welcoming committee consisting of four gallows with four men hanging from them,” he said.
At Dachau, a typhoid fever epidemic broke out, and the men were transferred to a central typhoid camp.
In the spring of 1945, orders came to march everyone in all concentration camps to the Germany-Austria border. There they would be given a poisoned soup to drink so when the Americans came to liberate the prisoners, no one would be left. Because most men in the typhoid camp couldn’t walk, they were shipped to the border on coal cars.
Americans came upon the train and, during the fighting to disable the train and liberate the prisoners, it began to rain.
“The Germans had allowed us to go for water, and five of us who had become friends in the camp just kept walking,” Glass said. “The SS soldiers took shelter in farmers’ houses, and there was no one around, so we just kept walking and walking.”
The friends stopped first at a farmer’s house. The farmer fed, clothed and hid them but then sent them on to a “cloister” where the nuns took the friends in.
They were hiding in the basement the day Glass said he saw the first American tank coming up a hill close to the convent.
“How can I possibly describe to you the jubilation of my heart and of being free?” he asked.
After the war, Glass emigrated to America in 1949, met his wife and was the chief executive officer of a business in New Jersey before moving to Raleigh about 13 years ago.
He reminded the audience that they are the future of “the greatest country in the world.”
Contact Katherine Ayers at email@example.com and 252-329-9567.
via The Daily Reflector.