Justice

Holocaust Survivor Shares Stories on Reddit

A 92-year-old Holocaust survivor took questions from Reddit users earlier this month in an especially powerful AMA ("Ask Me Anything") session — sharing stories about his experience in Nazi concentration camps and life after being liberated in 1945. By telling the stories of survivors, Henry Flescher hopes to preserve the history of this World War II tragedy so that future generations do not make the same mistakes.

Reddit

Flescher was born in Vienna, Austria, before being captured at age 18 and forced to endure horrific work and living conditions in seven different concentration camps for more than three years. He was freed from the camps at age 21 and now lives in Aventura, Florida, Business Insider reports. As the number of living Holocaust survivors dwindles, Flescher says it's increasingly important to speak out.

He was first transported to a transit camp by train.

Drancy

"I was first sent to Drancy, a transit camp. I was then transported in a cattle car packed with people with no food or water and one bucket in the middle to use as a toilet. I was 18 at the time. The smell was unfathomable.

"After six days in the train the train came to stop. The guards started to count men. They selected 300 men. I was number 298. We were taken off the train. The train then continued on its way to Auschwitz and everyone was killed. I will never forget the number 298."

Flescher was forced to go on multiple death marches and experienced seven different concentration camps.

"They took 300 men off the train to work in a shoe factory in Ohrdruf. After about four weeks I was transferred to Peiskretscham where I helped build bridges. After a few months there I was then transferred to Blechhammer. It was there that my name became 177153. Blechhammer was hell. Punishments were a daily routine and my front teeth were knocked out here. I was there during the winter. One time we had to stand for several hours and one person couldn't contain their urine and peed on himself. The man was hanged. After about two years at Blechhammer we went on a death march to Gross Rosen. Buchenwald was the next camp. Then altenberg and waldenburg. This is a brief timeline!"

Extreme hunger led him to take potentially deadly risks.

camp

"I used to go out at night risking my life to steal some raw potatoes from the kitchen at Peiskretscham and at Blechhammer. I took chances. At Blechhammer some inmates caught a dog, a German Shepard, and cooked it. It was a feast. Tasted like rabbit. That was the only time I've eaten dog, and it was the best meal I had in a long time. These days I prefer steak."

He described how it felt to be liberated.

"I didn't know it. I didn't understand. I was on another death march at the time from Altenburg to Waldenburg. I managed to slip away and hide in a chicken coop along the way and at that time the American convoy was advancing. I saw an American tank and an American soldier and thought he was going to kill me because I didn't know the uniform. I still left the coop and went up to them, because at that time I could barely stand up and weighed about 70 pounds. I was liberated on April 11.

"I didn't know that day would come. I was very sick when I was liberated and could barely eat, talk, or walk."

And he explained why he hasn't removed the identification number tattoo he was given.

tattoo

"It's important to remember the past. If I removed the tattoo it's removing a part of history. The Germans wanted to remove tattoo's from survivors afterwards, and I'm sure many people did. But it's a testament to the past. It shows I survived. And I'm here, and loving life!"

Ultimately, Flescher says, it's crucial for survivors to tell their stories.

"You cannot shy away from history and its brutality. We usually learn about history through books, but this is an event that happened in my lifetREime, I witnessed it, and I am still alive today to discuss it. Soon, there will not be any survivors left. I am 92. Once all the survivors are gone, the skeptics will probably come into the picture unfortunately. And that is why we need to educate everyone about what really happened. It didn't happen 500 years ago. It happened in my lifetime."

Read the full AMA here.

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