This week marks the 68th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, one of the Nazi's most notorious death camps. YNN's Kate McGowan shares the story of one local Holocaust survivor and his determination to keep the memory of all the innocent victims alive.
WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y. — "So this was the life in Auschwitz."
Joseph Diamond, 84, reflects on his experience as a prisoner inside Auschwitz. The Williamsville resident was forced from his home in Czechoslovakia at 15-years-old, and alongside his father, his mother and seven-year-old brother, he was shipped off to the unknown.
"They told us we're going to go to Germany somewhere to help with the harvest while the war is on because we were a security risk."
It was the year 1944, and Joseph and his family were loaded onto a cattle car.
"The box car had a little opening for air, like for animals.. a cattle car. And if you have to put people in there, it can handle about thirty people standing. They squeezed in 105 people, like sardines. There was no room to breathe."
They arrived at Auschwitz-Birkeneau. Joseph says his mother and brother were immediately told by a German soldier that they'd be sent to a residential camp. But instead.. they marched straight ahead, where he later learned, was a gas chamber.
"That's the last time I seen my mom. That was the biggest lie I ever heard of."
He says life in Auschwitz was unimaginable. Joseph lived on a piece of bread a day, and worked from sunrise to sunset, carrying heavy stone on his back.
His job was to help build a gas chamber.
"The killing was continuous. You could see four chimneys going steady... black smoke."
One year later, Joseph was sent on a death march to Austria to another concentration camp.
"I don't know why they just didn't kill us, it would have been much easier."
Not long after, he managed to escape, and returned back to his hometown. He says at that point, all of the concentration camps were liberated by American soldiers.
"There's no tombstones for me to see. Everybody is up in smoke. So Auschwitz is nothing for me."
Joseph settled in Buffalo soon after the war and had a family. Now retired from the construction business, he often shares his incredible story of survival with younger generations.
"We want to make sure it doesn't happen again. It could very easily happen."