Remember the Holocaust, historian urges 75 years after Auschwitz liberation

Nathan Fendrich has spent countless years teaching about the Holocaust because he believes everyone needs to remember the atrocities that went on in one of the darkest times in history.

Posted: Jan 27, 2020 6:44 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- Seventy-five years ago, Auschwitz was liberated by the Russian Army, and today a local historian is looking to make sure people remember the Holocaust.

Nathan Fendrich has spent countless years teaching about the tragedy out of a belief that everyone needs to remember the atrocities that went on in one of the darkest times in history.

By the time Auschwitz was liberated, 1.1 million people had been murdered in the camp.

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"How could they do this? We are civilized educated people. How could we do anything like this?" said Fendrich.

Fendrich said his stepfather's entire family was murdered by the Nazis in Latvia, and he was there when he heard the news of their deaths. 

"And he came in crying. I was 11 years old, and I had never seen him cry, and he said, 'My mother, they're dead, they're all dead,'" Fendrich said. 

Fendrich said one of the main ways the Nazis killed Jews in Auschwitz was with Zyklon B, a gas normally used to kill insects.

"When they opened the door, and I have the drawings, there would be a pyramid of people, they're climbing on one another to get away from the fumes which were down low, and the children, you don't want to see it," Fendrich said.

Fendrich has visited all six death camps in Europe, with Auschwitz-Birkenau being the largest.

Out of approximately six million Jews that were killed in the Holocaust, 18% of them were murdered in Auschwitz. 

The few people that were still alive in Auschwitz were sent on a death march by the guards when they realized the Russians were closing in on them. But some of the prisoners were liberated on the march by Americans.

Fendrich recounted a story from one of the survivors.

"She said, 'I'm Jewish,' in German, and the American officer looked at her. He had sunglasses on, even though it was early morning, and he took them off and said, 'So am I.' Eight months later, they were married," Fendrich said.

Fendrich said that even though there were some inspiring stories that came out of Auschwitz and the Holocaust, most of the stories were utterly tragic and brought tears to his and his wife's eyes.

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