The Bronx Remembers: 70 Years Ago Today, Auschwitz Survivors Were Liberated

The entrance to the former Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau with the lettering 'Arbeit macht frei' ('Work makes you free') / Image courtesy of The Independent
The entrance to the former Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau with the lettering ‘Arbeit macht frei’ (‘Work makes you free’) / Image courtesy of The Independent

January 27th, 1945, approximately 200,000 jewish concentration camp survivors of Auschwitz were liberated by Soviet soldiers — an estimated 1.5 million perished here alone. Many spread out across the globe with a number finding freedom in The Bronx amongst their mishpocheh (Yiddish for family — a term also often times attributed to extended family and friends).

During those years, The Bronx had the highest Jewish population of all the five boroughs with over 50% of the population identifying as such, and the bulk of this segment of our population lived in The South Bronx.

Our borough became home to many survivors along with families who had already fled years before the war broke out and those who had moved from the Lower East Side of Manhattan to escape the crowded tenement conditions.

The Bronx always seems to attract people escaping genocide or the harsh conditions of their native lands in search for the American Dream, whatever that may mean nowadays.

Albanians and ethnic Albanians escaped genocide from their native Kosovo after the breakup of the former Yugoslavia.

African Americans began to make our borough home after the Great Migration which began in 1910 up until 1970 when 6 million African Americans moved in what is considered the largest internal mass migration in the country.  They left the South as violence and racism increased along with the lynching of thousands and came to cities such as New York in search for a better life as well.

Why talk about these other groups on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz?  Because at the end of the day, we all need to stick together and if something Bronxites can do, is that.  Through adversity and thick or thin, we still remain very loyal to this land and what it means to many of us.  There are many more groups we didn’t mention here but eventually we’ll get to their stories.

Let’s continue to be the borough that welcomes all with open arms and never forget to have compassion and empathy for them.

Remember the words of Martin Niemöller:

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn’t a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

Read more:

Holocaust survivors from the Bronx tell their story on a day of remembrance – News12

A Generation Far Removed Gets a Glimpse of the Holocaust – NYTimes

Kites Symbolize Special Friendship between Bronx Fifth Graders and Kittay House Holocaust Survivors – Jewish Home Lifecare

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