Holocaust survivor reflects on time in concentration camps

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Updated: 4/28 11:43 pm
RENO, Nev. (MyNews4.com & KRNV) -- More than seven decades have passed since one of history's most horrific events: the Holocaust. News 4 had the chance to sit down with one its survivors, who now lives in northern Nevada.

In the early 1940's, Lydia Lebovic was a 16-year-old teenager living in eastern Europe. Weeks later, her entire life was turned upside down when she was moved to a ghetto, and eventually placed on a train to Auschwitz. Lydia survived and has made it her life mission to share her story.

As a teenager living in Hungary in 1944, Lydia Lebovic lived a seemingly normal life.

"When the occupation of our city happened by the Germans, I was 16. Not bad looking, surrounded by boys, with a happy family, in school, but I was a rebel."

But her rebellious spirit was corralled, as the Third Reich invaded, and Lebovic was stripped of her home, dignity and family. Lydia, her mother, and her three siblings were picked up at their home by the Nazi’s and forced to leave.

"My mother had to give over the key to her house, her furniture, her memories, her pictures, her china. And naturally, the tears came easier in her eyes then to ours, we didn't feel the same pain she had."

The ghetto they were taken to was a short distance from their home, but a world away from the life they once lived. Their time within the walls of the ghetto was brief, because within days, the family was escorted by Nazi soldiers to a nearby train station.

"It started immediately, the pushing in to the cars, young, old handicapped, mothers with babies in their arms."

Cramped and unsure of their final destination, things quickly turned from bad to worse.

"A couple of minutes later, the German and Hungarian guard, came to the door, gave us two buckets, with the remark, 'This is going to be your bathroom for the journey.' And with that, just close the door, put the hook on and minutes later, we were on our way. We didn't know where."

The trip to Auschwitz took three excruciating days. Lydia’s mother, who had spent time in the Polish countryside, almost immediately recognized where they were headed.

"She knew about the persecution, she knew about the ghettos, about the concentration camps, about the killings, and the persecution, all the way down. At this point she also looked at me 'You, you are the rebel, you please listen, promise you're going to behave, promise me you're going to obey. I want to see you after this is over, and for that you have do to it, to come tell me what and how you survived.'"

Those words would be the last advice Lydia’s mother shared. After arriving in Auschwitz, prisoners were divided into groups. Some would live, millions would perish.

Lydia was told she would become a labor worker. Her mother and sister were taken immediately to the gas chamber, where they were executed. Those parting words gave Lydia the courage and strength to survivor the horrors of the camp.

"She didn't survive, I did survive. But her words, I believed today and I believed then, that her words gave me the courage to endure and gave me the strength to fight my way out of the camp sane and alive."

After six weeks of starvation, hard labor, and torture, Lydia was hand-picked by the Nazi’s to be relocated to Germany, where she would assist with rebuilding the country.

Lydia reflects on her time in Nazi Germany and inside the walls of Auschwitz with a heavy heart. Though it was years ago, it remains at the core of her being.

"It's so easy to talk about it today, but nobody can imagine the impact it has on a person, or a young kid like I was."

Following the war, Lydia and her husband immigrated to Chile. In 1963, they moved to California, where they lived for 30 years before eventually retiring to Las Vegas.
 
For many years, she did not speak of her time in Auschwitz, as the memories were simply too hard. But in recent years, as so-called Holocaust skeptics deny the Holocaust ever happened, Lydia has made it her mission to teach others about the horrors she experienced.

She said that as long as there is someone to listen to her story, the memory of the Holocaust will live on and no one will forget.
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