miércoles, 17 de febrero de 2016

Auschwitz trial: three survivors describe horrors of Holocaust

Reinhold Hanning in court in Detmold, Germany.
Photograph: Reuters

Youngest witness, now 90, recalls the terror of selection days when SS men decided who was still fit to work and who should be killed.

Three Holocaust survivors have testified about the horrors they experienced at Auschwitz, on the second day of the trial of a former SS sergeant on 170,000 counts of accessory to murder.
Justin Sonder arrives at court. Photograph: Bernd Thissen/EPA
Reinhold Hanning, 94, showed no emotion as the witnesses told of crematoria chimneys belching flames, naked prisoners being taken to the gas chambers, and people being shot.
Justin Sonder, the youngest of the witnesses at 90, arrived at Auschwitz aged 17 and was selected to be a slave labourer for the IG Farben company rather than sent directly to the gas chambers.

He told the court that after three or four months he was considered one of the older prisoners and feared most selection days, when SS men would look at rows of inmates – who were forced to stand in a line naked for up to four hours – and decide who was still fit to work and who should be killed.
“I don’t have the words to describe how it was when you know that you could be dead in one or two hours, it made you sick, made you crazy,” Sonder said, his voice trembling. “I survived 17 selections.” 
Hanning is accused of serving as an SS Unterscharführer (junior squad leader) in Auschwitz from January 1943 to June 1944, a time when hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews were brought to the camp in cattle cars and gassed to death.
When first questioned by investigators he admitted that he had served in the Auschwitz I part of the camp, but denied serving at the Auschwitz II-Birkenau section, where most of the 1.1 million victims were killed.
Prosecutors argue that he is guilty of accessory to murder because he helped the death camp to function, even though there is no evidence of him committing a specific crime.
Hanning has spoken only one word so far in the trial, telling the presiding judge Anke Grudda on Friday, when she asked how he was after the first day of trial, that he was “good”. Trial sessions are limited owing to Hanning’s health, and a doctor is on hand throughout.
Hanning’s lawyer, Andreas Scharmer, said it was highly likely that his client would make a statement during the proceedings, but he would not say when or how detailed it might be.
Sonder said he looked forward to hearing what Hanning had to say. “Perhaps he will try to explain; it would be good if he did,” he said after the session. “I hope he finds the courage to say something.”

Erna de Vries
Erna de Vries. Photograph: Reuters

Another survivor, Erna de Vries, told the court that when the Nazis came for her Jewish mother in 1943 she did not have to go with her to Auschwitz, as her father was not Jewish. But she chose to stay with her.

She had been in Auschwitz for two months when the SS took her and about 85 other people of mixed heritage to the women’s concentration camp Ravensbrück. “That was one of the worst days of my life when I was sent to Ravensbrück and my mother stayed in Auschwitz,” she said. “I never saw her again.”
She said her mother had been happy to hear that she was going to Ravensbrück, knowing that any place was better than Auschwitz. “Auschwitz was a death camp, and she had the hope it would get better for me,” she said.
Leon Schwarzbaum, a 94-year-old Auschwitz survivor from Berlin who was used as slave labourer to help build a factory for Siemens outside the camp, said he could not see the area with the gas chambers and crematoria from where he was kept, but everyone knew exactly what was going on there.
“We saw the fire from the chimneys,” he told the court. “So much fire came out of the chimneys, no smoke, just fire. And that was burning people.”
The three are among about 40 survivors and their families who have joined the trial as co-plaintiffs, as allowed under German law. Not all will testify, but the trial is scheduled to hear from three more when testimony resumes next Thursday and two next Friday.

viernes, 12 de febrero de 2016

A 94-year-old former Nazi guard stands accused of helping to murder 170,000 people

Reinhold Hanning, a 94-year-old former SS guard at the Auschwitz death camp,
 leaves in car after the opening of his trial in Detmold,
Germany, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016. (Bernd Thissen/Pool Photo via AP)
Trials of former Nazi concentration camp guards in Germany have become rare in recent decades: As more and more of the perpetrators have died, prosecutors find it increasingly hard to charge those responsible for the horrendous crimes.
The current trial of 94-year-old Reinhold Hanning, a former SS guard at Auschwitz, may be one of the last of its kind. Hanning is accused of participating in mass shootings and selecting inmates for the executions. The trial started Thursday.
According to the prosecutor's office, Hanning may have been involved in the killing of at least 170,000 people, most of them Jews. More than 1 million people died in Auschwitz alone during World War II. During the time he was a guard at Auschwitz, hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews were killed by the Nazis.
According to German news site Spiegel Online, survivors of Nazi concentration camps were among those attending the beginning of the trial in the city of Detmold on Thursday. Several are expected to testify in coming weeks.
One of them, 94-year-old Leon Schwarzbaum, described the ordeal, the Associated Press reported: "The chimneys were spewing fire ... the smell of burning human flesh was so unbelievable that one could hardly bear it."
Hanning denies the charges but acknowledges that he worked in the camp as a guard.
Within the next months, two other men and one woman who are also accused of having been Nazi guards in concentration camps are expected to go on trial in Germany.
For decades, prosecution of Nazi crimes focused on high-level officials and generals. Partially due to a lack of evidence but also given a large number of low-level perpetrators, prosecutors rarely investigated crimes committed by camp guards. That, however, changed after John Demjanjuk, a retired U.S. autoworker, was convicted on more than 28,000 counts of accessory to murder in 2011.
Only a handful of suspects have stood trial in recent years because it has become increasingly difficult to find evidence of direct involvement in the mass killings. Many others have died before they could be charged.
The German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reminded its readers that the chances Nazi guards would be sentenced for their crimes had increased since a verdict last year.
Previously, courts had sentenced perpetrators only if they had worked at sites that were exclusively used as death camps, such as Treblinka and Sobibor. Auschwitz was not considered such a camp, which helped many Nazi guards avoid going to jail. Last year, however, a court sentenced an Auschwitz guard to four years in jail for having helped to murder 300,000 people.
Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/02/11/a-94-year-old-former-nazi-guard-stands-accused-of-helping-to-murder-170000-people/

martes, 26 de enero de 2016

Harrowing Details of Nazi Medical Experiments Emerge in Holocaust Survivor's Account

In newly-discovered deposition, Dachau survivor recounts he almost froze to death in a hypothermia experiment, and was whipped for not standing still while mosquitoes infected him with malaria.

The chilling testimony of a survivor of Nazi medical experiments has emerged in a three-page deposition recently unearthed at the Central Zionist Archive in Jerusalem.

The deposition, which carries no date, was submitted by Heinz Reimer, a Jewish survivor of several concentration camps, among them Dachau and Mauthausen. His testimony was discovered by an archivist during a routine cataloguing project of old Jewish Agency files. The document was discovered in a chronologically arranged file originally held at the Frankfurt office of the Jewish Agency. Since the document preceding it is dated August 1951, the assumption is that it was submitted sometime in the early post-war years. 

Reimer is possibly one of the few Dachau inmates to have undergone Nazi hypothermia experiments who survived the war. In these experiments, inmates were immersed in ice water to test how long the human body could survive in freezing temperatures. Those who survived the icy temperatures were often subjected to various body “rewarming” procedures that also involved immersing them in boiling water.

Forced cold water immersion experiment at Dachau concentration camp presided over by Professor Holzlohner (left) and Dr Rascher (right).

Noting that he was “misused as an object of experiments” and “as a vivisection object,” Reimer reported in his deposition that the notorious Nazi SS doctor Sigmund Rascher “conducted on me experiments of terminal hypothermia,” indicating that he was subjected to this procedure more than once.  Rascher ultimately fell out of grace with the Nazis and was executed by a German firing squad just before the end of the war.

Reimer’s testimony is included in a request he submitted to the Jewish Agency for financial assistance after the war. His address at the time was Hanover, Germany, although his nationality could not be verified by the archive. Representatives of the archive said they have no further information about his whereabouts since then. 

In his request, Reimer wrote that the money he was requesting would be used to help him set up a laundromat business as well as pay lawyers who might assist him in receiving restitution funds from the German government.

Visitors walk past a gate with "Work makes Free" written on it at the memorial site of the former Nazi concentration camp
in Dachau, southern Germany on April 24, 2009. Credit:AFP

Reimer reported that along with other tortures he endured in the camps, he was purposely infected with various diseases by Nazi doctors in order to test out cures for them.

Several sentences from the Reimer testimony, a copy of which was apparently also available at a Geneva-based UN archive, have already been published in a book on Nazi human experiments. But according to Patrick Casiano, the archivist at the CZA who discovered the document, this is the first time that the full three-page testimony has come to light. 

“I was very surprised to discover it,” he said, “because usually here at the CZA, we deal with administrative and bureaucratic documents that were in the possession of the various Zionist organizations – never something as personal and as gruesome in nature as this.”

In his testimony, Reimer referred by name to several Nazi doctors at Dachau, among them Dr. Claus Schilling, who was ultimately sentenced to death after the war by an American tribunal. “Dr. Schilling infected me three times with malaria tropical bacteria,” he wrote. “He withdrew from my body one and a half liters of blood for serum experiments. He infected me with syphilis by inflicting a 12-centimeter cutting wound to my leg. After this I had to undergo cures – I counted 46 injections of Atebrin [a drug used in the treatment of malaria] and other injections.”

Particularly chilling is Reimer’s account of how he was infected with malaria. “This inhuman Nazi locked me up every day for two hours in a glass cage and I had to endure thousands of Anopheles mosquitos on my body,” he wrote. “Once I could no longer stand the pain I made an attempt of resistance against the mosquitos while I assumed that this would not be seen. But the doctor, if you want to call this beast like this, saw my attempt of resistance in the mirror. For this I received seven days of strict detention. But before I was led away to the detention, I received 25 lashes with a leather bullwhip.”

According to his testimony, Reimer was interned at various Nazi concentration camps from November 1938 through June 1945. Dachau was the first Nazi concentration camp, opened in 1933, and served as a model for many others.

Source: http://www.haaretz.com/jewish/news/.premium-1.699461

lunes, 25 de enero de 2016

Poignant Holocaust artwork by Jews forced into hiding, concentration camps and ghettos on display in Berlin

Nelly Toll was 8 years old when she and her mother went into hiding in 1943 in Poland to escape the Nazis’ death camps. The Jewish girl spent long hours in her tiny hideaway at a Christian family’s home writing stories, keeping a diary and creating wonderful, bright paintings of a lost world.
Her art is on display in the centre of Berlin at a special exhibition of Art from the Holocaust that opened at the German Historical Museum.
“I hope that generations to come will look at this and know what atrocities made me do this,” Toll told The Associated Press at the opening.
Toll’s paintings are among 100 artworks created by Jewish artists during the Holocaust on display, the first time the collection from the Yad Vashem memorial in Jerusalem has been shown outside Israel.
The exhibition includes work by Jewish artists in hiding, in concentration and labor camps, and in ghettos. Of the 50 artists featured, 24 were killed by the Nazis. Alongside the mostly unknown names are acclaimed artists such as Felix Nussbaum and Ludwig Meidner.
Toll is the only artist represented in the show who is still alive. One of her paintings, “Girls in the Field,” shows two girls, dressed in bright blue, red and yellow-dotted dresses walking across a sunny lawn confined by lush green trees.
“I made 60 paintings while in hiding and all of them express happiness,” said Toll, who lost her father and brother in the Holocaust. She emigrated to the United States with her mother after the war.
Like many Jews who created art while being surrounded by death, fear and suffering, painting was a way for Toll to break free and escape from the Holocaust’s harsh reality to imaginary places of beauty and happiness.
“I would have conversations with the characters in my paintings for hours,” Toll remembered.
Not all the works show an escape into a happy imagination. Some artworks are shocking in their depictions of life in the ghetto, daily discrimination and fear of being killed by the Nazis.
Halina Olomucki’s 1939 pencil work, “After the Shearing of the Beards,” shows two orthodox men with bandages around their heads after their beards had been torn or burned off by Germans in the Warsaw ghetto.
Leo Haas’ “Transport from Vienna” shows the arrival of a train full of elderly Jews at the Theresienstadt ghetto in 1942. Painted in dark, monochrome India ink, people with faces like hollow skulls can be seen tumbling out of cattle cars, many lying lifeless on the ground as a soldier keeps pulling more people off the train.
The show’s curator, Yad Vashem’s Eliad Moreh-Rosenberg, called the creation of art during the Holocaust an “uncompromising act of resistance” by artists in mortal danger.
It was very difficult for the artists to get painting supplies, but despite that and their appalling living conditions they managed to portray life during the Shoah, fighting their dehumanization by the Nazis and leaving behind painted witness accounts, Moreh-Rosenberg said.
Among the most touching works is a postcard painted in 1941 by both Karl Robert Bodek and Kurt Conrad Loew while at the Gurs camp in southwestern France, which was then under the Vichy regime that collaborated with the Nazis.
Titled “One Spring,” the watercolor shows a bright yellow butterfly sitting on top of black barbed wire, free to fly wherever it desires, while the two artists were confined to the dark barracks of the camp depicted at the bottom of the painting.
Bodek was killed a year later in Auschwitz-Birkenau, while Loew survived and died in his birth city of Vienna in 1980.
Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was to officially inaugurate the show on Monday night, said on her weekly podcast released over the weekend that such exhibitions are still critical for educating younger Germans about the Holocaust.
“It reminds us that we have an enduring responsibility for what has been done in the past…” she said. “I think it is very, very important that every generation reacquaints itself with Germany’s history.”
Merkel specifically cited fears raised by German Jewish leaders about a possible rise in anti-Semitism with the arrival of nearly 1.1 million migrants last year.
“We have to deal with it, especially among young people whose family background is from countries where hatred of Israel and the hatred of Jews is widespread,” she said.
Source: http://news.nationalpost.com/news/poignant-holocaust-artwork-by-jews-forced-into-hiding-concentration-camps-and-ghettos-on-display-in-berlin

miércoles, 16 de diciembre de 2015

Nazism opened the door to the global terrorism.

Nazism opened the door to the global terrorism. It drew a structural evil where nobody was saved, not even the German people. The enemy: everybody who could think for themselves in a critical and creative way, everybody who didn't live according to the Nazi rules. The Aryans were just "manufactured individuals", designed to become dehumanized automatons.
My book, "Los nazis y el Mal" on Amazon.com

El nazismo abrió la puerta al terrorismo globalizado. Dibujó un mal estructural donde nadie estaba a salvo, ni siquiera el pueblo alemán. El enemigo: todo aquel que pudiera pensar por si mismo de una forma libre y diferente a lo que dictaban las reglas nazis. Los arios eran tan sólo "individuos fabricados", diseñados para la violencia, es decir, autómatas inteligentes deshumanizados.

¡Ya a la venta mi libro, "Los nazis y el Mal" en formato e-book en Amazon.es 

Un libro que pone al descubierto las cuestiones aún hoy más vigentes.

sábado, 12 de septiembre de 2015

Pickled remains of Auschwitz victim whose wife and children were gassed before he was dismembered by sadistic Nazi doctor are finally laid to rest 72 years later.

The coffin containing the remains of victims of Dr August Hirt, 
is carried at the Strasbourg-Cronenbourg Jewish cemetery, eastern France
  • Polish Jew Menachem Taffel was one of demon Dr. August Hirt's 86 victims.
  • They were brought from Auschwitz in Poland to Natzweiler-Struthof, France.
  • Bodies were pickled in alcohol, but 72 years later they have been buried.

A Polish Jew whose body parts were pickled in a test tube by a sadistic Nazi doctor has finally been laid to rest 70 years after he was murdered.
Menachem Taffel, a dairy merchant who lived in Berlin, died a hideous death so Dr. August Hirt could preserve the skulls and bones of 'these sub-humans' so the 'degeneracy and the animality of these Jews', could be documented.
At the weekend, 72 years after they were killed in the pursuit of perverted medical science, the last two victims of the demon doctor, including Taffel, were buried in an emotional ceremony in France.
In August 1943, these two people - only one of whom could be identified as Taffel - were among a group of 86 Jews plucked from the Auschwitz death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland and transported to France for the sole purpose of being murdered.
There were no family members to say Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead, for Taffel on Sunday. However, the story of what was done to him, his family and the millions of others who perished in the Holocaust lives on.
Taffel was born on July 21, 1900, in the Russian Empire called Galicia, now part of Poland, and in 1938 he and his family moved in with his wife Clare's parents in Berlin as the tempo of persecution against the Jews was stepped up in the Third Reich.
In March 1943, the family, including daughter Esther, who was 15 and a volunteer helper at a local nursing home, were shipped to Auschwitz.
His wife and children were gassed upon arrival. Taffel, who bore the number 107969 inked on his left forearm, had the misfortune of crossing the path of S.S.-Hauptsturmführer Dr August Hirt - a man who perverted the Hippocratic oath as he climbed the tawdry ladder of Nazism.
Born on April 28, 1898, in Mannheim, Germany into a family from Strasbourg in France, Hirt was the son of a Swiss businessman. In 1914, he volunteered to fight in World War I on the German side.

The corpse of Polish Jew Menachem Taffel (pictured) was pickled in alcohol on the orders of Dr August Hirt
          The corpse of Polish Jew Menachem Taffel (pictured) was pickled in alcohol on the orders of Dr. August Hirt

In October 1916, he was wounded in the upper jaw by a bullet and received the Iron Cross. He returned to Mannheim in 1917. 
He went on to study medicine at the University of Heidelberg and in 1921, he took German citizenship.
In the early 1930s he became involved with the Ahnenerbe institute, an S.S. think tank devoted to buttressing the Nazi philosophy that only 'Aryans' were worthy of life and that Jews, Gypsies, and Slavs were sub-humans who needed to be eradicated.
He joined the Institute of Anatomy at the Reichsuniversität in Strasbourg early in 1941 and soon became chairman of the anatomy department. 
He was a confidante of S.S. overlord Heinrich Himmler and privy to the top secret plan formulated at the Wannsee Conference outside Berlin for the 'final solution' - the mass murder - of the Jews in all lands conquered by Germany.
He submitted a paper to Himmler in February of 1942 stating that he wanted to create a collection of skulls and skeletons of the 'sub-humans' destined to die for research. 
Because the gas chambers of the secret killing centres were working at a furious pace, Hirt was worried that Europe's Jewish population would soon be eliminated - at which point 'Jewish skeletons would be as rare and precious as a diplodocus'.

Demon doctor August Hirt (pictured) submitted a paper to Himmler in February of 1942 
stating that he wanted to create a collection of skulls and skeletons of the 'sub-humans'

It was rumored that Hirt, who was venal as well as sadistic, toyed with the idea of setting up a skull mail order business for other Reich doctors, as a way of earning extra money.
Himmler responded enthusiastically to Hirt's request for bodies for his collection saying he was 'prodigiously interested' and considered the project to be of 'enormous value'.
A letter used as evidence during the post-war Nazi trials at Nuremberg includes an attachment with a report on 'securing skulls of Jewish-Bolshevik Commissars for the purpose of scientific research'.
It initially allowed Hirt to begin his gassings of Auschwitz Jews at Natzweiler-Struthof. This was the only Nazi murder camp on French soil, close to his research center and chosen as the place where the victims would die.
Himmler greenlighted to project and it was decided that Auschwitz would provide the prisoners for the macabre scheme. 
Initially, 115 people were selected, a number eventually whittled down to 87. Half of them were Greek Jews from Thessaloniki, the others an assortment of German, Polish, Austrian, Russian and Lithuanian victims.
The guinea pigs were held in a quarantine section of Auschwitz before being shipped in rail cars to Natzweiler-Struthof in July 1943. 
It was run by a man called Joseph Kramer, described by the Allies who would hang him after the war, as 'brutality incarnate'.
A gas chamber was built into an old refrigerator room and hydrogen cyanide was chosen as the method to kill the victims. 
On August 17, 1943, Taffel, and his fellow prisoners were killed over a three-night period in the name of Third Reich medicine.
Kramer later testified: 'One evening, about 9pm, the prisoners arrived. I led about fifteen women to the gas chamber. I told them they were going to be disinfected.
'With the help of some of the S.S. guards, I got them completely undressed and pushed them into the gas chamber.
'When I closed the door they began to scream. I put some of the crystals that Hirt had given me into the funnel above the observation window. 
'I would watch everything that was going on inside through it. The women continued to breathe for half a minute and then fell to the floor. I turned on the ventilation and when I opened the door they were lying dead on the ground. 
'I told some of the male S.S. nurses to put the bodies in a truck and take them to the Institute of Anatomy at 5.30 the next morning.
'I felt no emotion while accomplishing these tasks because I had received an order to execute the prisoners in the manner that I have described to you. That is simply how I was brought up.'
There were 87 victims originally chosen, but one of them, a woman, was shot by a guard as she struggled to escape the gas chamber. Her body was not sent to Strasbourg with the others because it was considered 'spoiled'.
Professor Hirt's assistants, Otto Bong and Henri Herypierre, began placing the bodies into vats of synthetic alcohol to preserve them when they arrived at his institute. Herypierre took the stand at Nuremberg after the war to describe the bodies.
He said: 'They were still warm. Their eyes were wide open and shining. They appeared congested and red and protruded from the socket. 
'There were traces of blood around the nose and mouth. There was no rigor mortis. It is my opinion that these victims had been poisoned or asphyxiated.'
The bodies were left pickling in alcohol when the Allies liberated France. It seems Hirt was given other, more important work to do by his Nazi bosses researching the effects of poison gas in combat situations.
Himmler ordered the destruction of the cadaver collection, but the Allies beat him to it. Most of the bodies were buried on October 23, 1945, in the municipal cemetery of Strasbourg-Robertsau before being transferred in 1951 to the Strasbourg-Cronenbourg Jewish cemetery.
Hirt fled Strasbourg in September 1944, hiding in Tübingen in southern Germany. He committed suicide on June 2, 1945.
It wasn't until July this year that the remains of Taffel and his unidentified soulmate in death were found in laboratory jars at the institute. 
All these years later, a post mortem was able to discern that his last meal on earth was potato peelings, consumed the night before he was murdered. 
Historian Raphael Toledano revealed that a forensics professor by the name of Camille Simonin, who was investigating Hirt, had preserved some of the remains despite the belief they had been buried in 1945. 
Several hundred people gathered for a sombre ceremony at the Strasbourg-Cronenbourg Jewish cemetery on Sunday, throwing an earth on a single coffin holding their collective remains.
The victims of Hirt's skeleton collection have been honored across the world through publications, articles, and memorials.
On December 11, 2005, a memorial was unveiled at the anatomy institute of Strasburg hospital, and at the Strasbourg-Cronenbourg Jewish cemetery. The unveiling was attended by relatives of Hirt's victims from Thessalonica, London, Germany, Israel and France.
The plaque reads: "Souvenez-vous d'elles pour que jamais la medecine ne soit devoyée" (Remember them so that medicine never be corrupted again).

Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3225272/Remains-Polish-Jew-wife-children-gassed-Auschwitz-dismembered-pickled-test-tube-sadistic-Nazi-doctor-finally-laid-rest-72-years-later.html

miércoles, 2 de septiembre de 2015

Holocaust survivor: 'There was fear, not jubilation, the day we were freed from the concentration camp'

Tomi Reichental talks about the horrors of his childhood during the Holocaust and life after liberation.

The 80-year-old Holocaust survivor has dedicated much of the last decade to giving lectures in schools and universities, both here in his adopted home of Ireland and around the world, to educate people about the time.
It is, Tomi tells me, his way of honouring those lost during this horrific moment in modern history and making sure that such atrocities never happen again.
There is a poignant contrast as we sit in his beautiful south Dublin home, surrounded by the scent of freshly baked scones and carrot cake to talk about Tomi's traumatic childhood memories - the fear, the starvation, the overcrowding, how he, his brother and his cousin would play innocently amongst the thousands of rotting corpses outside.
Tomi was just nine years old when he was deported alongside five of his family members from his native Slovakia to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1944.
"I think I owe it to the victims that their memory is not forgotten," Tomi explains. "Sometimes when the young people hear it from teachers, it might go in one ear and out the other, but when they hear me, they never forget about it because they are seeing somebody who has been a part of that history," he smiles gently.
"I lost 35 members of my family, people that I knew," Tomi pauses. "One day they disappeared and I never saw them again, so for me, it is very important that I speak about it."
However, it took many decades before Tomi could open up and speak about his ordeal. "It took over 55 years until I actually started to speak about it and now they cannot stop me," he jokes. "It is not that I didn't want to before, I just could not do it."
Tomi's family were arrested late in the Nazi campaign - at first Slovakia was simply a friendly nation to Hitler's regime and, as a farmer, Tomi's father was deemed too valuable to the Slovakian economy to be sent, like many other Slovak Jews, to the Nazi work and extermination camps.
This changed, however, once German troops began to occupy Slovakia.
"In 1942, because my father was a farmer and was useful to the economy, we got a special document so that, for the time being, we shouldn't be taken away," Tomi tells me. "When Slovakia was occupied by Germany, of course, then no paper was useful. We tried to escape and we tried to hide, but we were betrayed."
"They used to do a selection process where the young men and women went to the right and the children, mothers and old people to the left," Tomi explains. "In seconds, families were split, the young men and women who were able to work were sent to slave labour and the others they were sent to the extermination camps."
Tomi was transported alongside his mother, brother, grandmother, aunt and cousin in a cattle-cart, which was originally bound for Auschwitz, but was rerouted to Bergen-Belsen.

Tomi Reichental

"The German soldiers got word that they were to retreat from the west to the east because the Russians were advancing. We were on the train at this time; so we were the first transport that didn't go to Auschwitz. If we had been arrested at the beginning of October, I wouldn't be here," Tomi trails off.
He remembers being shielded from much of what was happening during those years by his family, but once he reached Bergen-Belsen, - despite the efforts of his mother, aunt and grandmother - the desperation of their situation became apparent to him, even as a child of nine.
"When it all started in 1942, I had just really started school. The first time I knew that I was different was when I had to wear the yellow star. I was going to school and kids started to shout at me 'dirty Jew, smelly Jew' and all of this," Tomi says.
"My mother was really an extraordinary person. In the worst times, she always smiled and she was the power behind us.
"My mother also survived and she had a good life. She died only 12 years ago; she was 96 years old, she was really the pillar of strength in our hour of despair.
In his younger days with his mum and older brother

"She would never show that we were in trouble. She tried to keep it away from me, but, of course, I was there and saw it."
A couple of months before the Allied Forces liberated the Bergen-Belsen camp, thousands of inmates were moved there from Auschwitz. As a result, the numbers in the already overcrowded camp swelled and disease was rampant. Death and dying was a part of everyday life.
Tomi's grandmother Rosalia passed away just weeks before they were liberated.
"They just came into the room and they picked her up, one by the arms and one by the legs, threw her onto a cart, then she was wheeled out and thrown onto the pile of corpses outside," Tomi remembers.
"We were liberated on April 15. I remember that day very well. It was just an ordinary day, sunny outside. On April 11, we didn't see any guards in the watchtower, they escaped, but still nobody dared to go out, even though the gate was open. We didn't know what was happening, we were afraid."
"There was no food or water for four days," Tomi adds. "Then on the afternoon of the 15th, we heard this rumbling through the camp and we all ran to the barbed wire to see what was happening and we saw jeeps were coming in.
"There was no jubilation. We had smiles on our faces, but 90pc of the people in Bergen-Belsen were sick. People just stood, they were scared, they had no strength, they were dying most of them."
Following a number of months in quarantine, Tomi and his family returned to Slovakia where they were reunited with his father. Tomi's father had been arrested separately and escaped by jumping from a train bound for Auchswitz with a number of others.
According to Tomi, however, the welcome for Jewish people in Slovakia after the war was not a warm one.
"The atmosphere for Jewish people in Slovakia was not very good," Tomi says. "Because of the propaganda the Slovak people had experienced, they still hated the Jews. They used to whisper around that more Jews were coming back than were taken away. It wasn't our home anymore."
After school, Tomi travelled to the newly formed state of Israel, where he joined the Israeli Army. His parents and brother Miki, who was finishing his university studies in engineering, followed a short time later. Tomi was discharged from the army after his two years of service, but was called as a member of the reserve forces in 1956 during Israel's Suez campaign.
"It was tough. I saw a lot of terrible things during that time," Tomi says. "After that, I wanted to study engineering so I decided to go to university in Germany."
While in Germany, a cousin of Tomi's, who was working in London as an au pair, recommended Tomi to her boss, a major industrialist, who was looking for someone to set up a zip manufacturing company in Ireland. Tomi was flown to London and subsequently offered the job.
"That's how I came to Ireland. In 1960, I met a girl and in June, 1961, we married," he smiles.
Tomi and his wife Evanne Blackman left Ireland for Israel a short time later, where his eldest son was born. However, after a number of pleading letters from Evanne's father, the couple returned to Dublin where Tomi took over his father-in-law's jewellery manufacturing business.
"I had started a factory in Israel with my brother, which developed into a huge manufacturing company for tools for the woodworking industry, but eventually I relented and we came back," he smiles. "We were very happy. Unfortunately, my wife got cancer in 2003 and within 14 months, she died," Tomi adds. "I have three sons and six grandchildren."
Tomi has found happiness once again with his partner of nine years, Joyce Weinrib. Last year, he received the International Person of the Year Award and later this month, he will accept an honorary doctorate from the National University of Ireland in Maynooth. In fact, Tomi's home is adorned with many honours and awards, some more modest than others, but all appreciated most sincerely by their recipient.
In January 2008, RTE broadcast a one-hour documentary on Tomi's life entitled I was a boy in Belsen, produced by Gerry Gregg. In 2011, Gregg produced a second film, Close to Evil, which followed Tomi's quest to meet one of his alleged former jailers - Hilde Lisiewicz, who it transpired was alive and living in Hamburg.
After the film was broadcast, a German man named Hans-Jürgen Brennecke filed charges against the 93-year-old woman, which caused prosecutors there to open an investigation into allegations that Hilde served as a Nazi SS guard. Tomi had hoped that the documentary could be "an opportunity for reconciliation", but Hilde refused to meet with him.
"I don't want to see her going to prison," he tells me. "It's too late; she is 93 years old, but for me, it is very important that a conviction comes out of it if she is sent to trial and found guilty, from a moral point of view."
Nominations are being accepted for the 2015 People of the Year until September 14. For more information, see www.peopleoftheyear.com

Source: http://www.herald.ie/lifestyle/holocaust-survivor-there-was-fear-not-jubilation-the-day-we-were-freed-from-the-concentration-camp-31494493.html