Md. Holocaust Survivor Makes a Point of Speaking Out
Klaus Zwilsky, 74, of Calvert County MD, is a Holocaust survivor. However, his story is relatively unique among Jews who emerged from the horrors of Nazi Germany. He was not sent to a concentration camp, nor did he spend World War II hiding in the home of a sympathtic non-Jew. Instead, Zwilsky survived in a Jewish hospital in Berlin, with the knowledge, and consent, of the Nazi government.
Zwilsky is one of twenty who were interviewed for Daniel B. Silver’s book “Refuge in Hell: How Berlin’s Jewish Hospital Outlasted the Nazis.” The book details how the 800 or so Jews living in the hospital managed to survive in the capital of Nazi Germany. Causes range from bureaucratic infighting to German leader Adolf Hitler’s ambivalence about how to handle Jews of German descent to the simple fact that the Nazis needed a place to treat Jews.
“Certainly there was fear,” he said. At times, they almost wished to be sent off to a camp, just to relieve themselves of the constant threat of danger. They did not know at this time that places like Theresienstadt were not relocation camps but places for Jews to be held before they were sent to their death at another location. Zwilsky and his family did not learn about many of these things until after the war.
“We didn’t know at the time,” he said, that the Nazis were systematically executing Jews. “You find out all these things afterwards.” Soviet troops reaching Berlin in April of 1945 were surprised to find any Jews alive in the city at all because they had discovered that the Nazis were planning to exterminate those who remained.
“That’s one of the reasons I’m here,” he said, speaking to a group of high school students, in order to make people believe the stories. It makes him angry, and perplexed, to hear people express disbelief at the deaths of over ten million people, six million of them Jewish. “Deniers don’t have a leg to stand on.”
By Ben Blumberg
Washington Post Scholarship Winner
Monday, May 14, 2007; 1:54 PM
Webmaster note: Isn’t it odd how some Holocaust survivors (and even contemporaneous scholars) claim that, after 1933, everyone knew that the Nazis were shoveling Jews into gas ovens, yet here’s a survivor who didn’t find out until 1945? Unlike some of the other survivor stories, no one came up to any of these 800 Jews and told them they would be “going up in smoke.”
So, either there was no extermination program, or these 800 Jews were so beloved by those around them (in Nazi Germany, remember) that they were sheltered from anything negative or harsh while Germany was being reduced to rubble around them.