A Painful But Necessary Remembrance
May. 01, 1995
NEW YORK (AP) _ There are two dates Marie Edelsbourgh holds close to her heart.
She remembers the day, month, year and time that her daughter, Helen, was born: Sunday, Aug. 6, 1944, at noon.
And Edelsbourgh remembers the day, month, year and time the Nazi concentration camp was liberated: ``exactly 3 o'clock in the afternoon on Jan. 27, 1945.''
The 74-year-old Manhattan woman and 6,000 other survivors of the Holocaust gathered Sunday at the Paramount Theater in Madison Square Garden to remember the end of World War II and the 6 million Jews they left behind. They lost parents, children, lovers and neighbors in gas chambers, in front of firing squads, in mass graves and on death marches.
President Clinton told the survivors that Americans must be alert to hatred in all forms _ from Nazi death camps to the federal-building bombing in Oklahoma City.
``Ultimately, I wanted to be here today, after all our country has been through in these last days, because you have taught me that the vigilance of memory is our greatest defense,'' Clinton said.
In Los Angeles, more than 500 people gathered outside the Japanese American National Museum to commemorate the efforts of the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion. The battalion, which included Japanese-American and Jewish soldiers, helped liberate the Dachau concentration camp on April 29, 1945.
Janina Cywinska, a Catholic Pole who was taken to Dachau when she was 10 because her father aided Jews, was rescued by Japanese-American soldiers of the 522nd Battalion minutes before being executed by Nazis.
``I will forever love you,'' she told members of the battalion as some of them wiped tears away. ``Why? Because you have given me and thousands of others life.''
Cywinska described the chilling, horrific years she spent in the concentration camp.
``My job was to pull bodies out and line them up,'' she said. ``I picked up a baby who was still breathing and I gave her mouth-to-mouth. A Nazi saw me and blew the baby's head off.''
The thousands of survivors gathered in New York shared memories of the Nazi slaughter as they sought out family and friends in the theater. A choral ensemble from Yeshiva University and cantor Joseph Malovany sang mournful songs such as ``Our Town Burns'' and ``The Lonely Child.''
Survivors bowed their heads, some to hide their sobs. Others tried to conceal their tears behind sunglasses.
Edelsbourgh didn't know she was pregnant when she was arrested moving ammunition for the Polish resistance. Most pregnant Jewish woman were shot or gassed when they arrived at the death camps.
But she had forged papers that said she was an Aryan and Christian, and she was spared.
She was to be shot shortly before the liberation, but the guard escorting her to her execution was drunk and chatty. By the time she arrived, her killers had left.
The memories choked Edelsbourgh. Her voice caught and she did not want to talk about them anymore.
But the resilient survivor smiled. ``Life is not a picnic, you know, not for anyone. Has life been good? Yes and no.
``Today I am here with my grandson. That is good.''