While hundreds of thousands of Jews were murdered by the Nazis at Auschwitz during the Holocaust, for Angela Orosz it was her place of birth. Orosz told her story during Ottawa’s Yom HaShoah commemoration.
‘When one bears witness, one speaks for the six million who have been forever silenced,’ said Shoah Committee Chair Debbie Halton-Weiss at the community Yom HaShoah commemoration, April 23, at the Soloway Jewish Community Centre.
The concept of bearing witness was the focal point of the event as Holocaust survivor Angela Orosz told her story in conversation with Canadian Press reporter Stephanie Levitz.
As a baby born just weeks before Auschwitz was liberated, Orosz is among the youngest of all Holocaust survivors.
Orosz graciously stepped in when Cantor David Wisnia, who was originally scheduled to deliver the keynote address at the Yom HaShoah program, was unable to attend due to illness.
Orosz – who only learned the circumstances of her birth at age 11 and didn’t speak publicly about it until she was 60 – said her mother was three months pregnant when her parents arrived at Aucshwitz in May of 1944. While her father was killed, her mother was selected by the infamous Dr. Josef Mengele for forced labour and his cruel medical experiments.
Orosz weighed just one kg at birth. And, just three hours later, her mother – who had hidden her pregnancy from the Nazis – was forced out into the freezing cold for rollcall and work. She left the baby wrapped in a blanket on a top bunk in the barracks, and it was only because she was too weak to cry – and thus draw attention – that young Angela survived.
Auschwitz was liberated while Orosz was still a tiny infant, but her life remained difficult. She was malnourished and deformed and many people suggested to her mother that she let her baby die. Her mother, though, was determined to see her child survive.
Thanks to her mother, Orosz grew up. While she knew she was born in Auschwitz, and understood bits and pieces of her past, her mother never really told her the entire story.
It was only when Orosz’s own daughter had to do a class project on her family’s history that she learned the full extent of what her mother had endured at Auschwitz, including the details of Mengele’s sickening medical experiments on her mother’s cervix.
Orosz, who lives in Montreal, is now a prominent Holocaust educator. Two years ago, she returned to Auschwitz for the 70th anniversary of the death camp’s liberation.
She returned again last year with a group of Canadian high school students on the March of the Living.
Noah Hamburg, one of the Ottawa students on the March of the Living, said Orosz’ participation on the March had added great meaning to his experience.
“The most important thing is not to be silent, because the world was silent,” he said.
The Yom HaShoah commemoration also included greetings from Ambassador Nimrod Barkan on behalf of the State of Israel and the March on the Colours by veterans of the Canadian Armed Forces and the Israel Defense Forces. The Tamir Neshama Choir led the singing of “O Canada” and “Hatikvah” and Allan Shefrin delivered Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks’ “Prayer for Yom HaShoah.”
One of the most poignant moments during the commemoration was the lighting of six memorial candles – each representing one million Jews murdered in the Holocaust – by Holocaust survivors Elena Keen, Cantor Moshe Kraus, Vera Gara, Herbert and Lillian Laks, Judy Young Drache, and Mozenson Zinovly.
There was also a video presentation by Ottawa March of the Living participants on the lessons they learned from their experiences.
The evening concluded with Cantor Daniel Benlolo singing “Kel Maleh Rachamim” and reciting the Mourner’s Kaddish.