Holocaust survivor remembers: ‘I was a living corpse’

Holocaust survivor Susan Pollack says on the day of her liberation, she dedicated herself to educating others about the Shoah

SUSAN POLLACK speaks at a memorial ceremony at the European Parliament last week (photo credit: OURIEL MORGENSZTERN)
SUSAN POLLACK speaks at a memorial ceremony at the European Parliament last week
On the day she was liberated from Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, Susan Pollack pledged to spend her life educating people about the horrors of the Holocaust.
“I was a living corpse,” she said, speaking last week at the European Jewish Congress ceremony marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day at the European Parliament. “And I thought, health permitting I will teach at schools – which I have done for 30 years – to inform... That is the commitment I made when I was liberated from Bergen-Belsen.”
Pollack, a native of Hungary who now lives in London, told the gathered group of politicians, diplomats and communal leaders how the horrors of the Holocaust were prefaced by creeping antisemitism and dehumanization.
“We had exclusionary laws, long before I was taken to Auschwitz,” she said. “We weren’t part of the society. We were dehumanized. We had our political rights, economic rights taken away. We had to give up the little business we had, our social life. My brother – two years older than me – couldn’t go to football matches anymore because he was beaten up. And it was all dismissed.”
Pollack said her experiences prove how important it is to tackle hate and bigotry and antisemitism at its roots.
“That’s how it starts – with small attacks,” she said. “There were 10 stages to the Final Solution. And that’s why we have to fight it at the very beginning.”
In 1944, Pollack was deported to Auschwitz, where her mother was sent directly to the gas chambers. Her father had been rounded up months earlier, and she never saw him again. Pollack was later sent to a work camp in Germany, before being forced on a death march to Bergen-Belsen, where she was liberated on April 15, 1945 by British forces.
“We survivors can explain what it was like to have lost our families,” she said. “I lost more than 50 members of my family.”
Pollack lectures around Britain about her wartime experiences, and also urges people to visit the site of the Auschwitz concentration camp.
“See it for yourself,” she said. “Witness it. Not just talk. But see it.”
Pollack said that antisemitism has been around for centuries, but she still holds out hope for its eradication.
“It’s been going on for so long - antisemitism,” she said. “I hope with the few years I’ve got ahead of me, to see it gradually disappearing, or disappearing to the level that it becomes insignificant. If that’s possible, I don’t know.”
The survivor lauded the compulsory Holocaust education in the United Kingdom, but she said more is still needed.
“Action is what we need,” she said. “Because antisemitism has again and again – has been with us so long – it’s entered the subconscious. It has become a psychological belief for many – the blaming, the scapegoating. God forbid – who is to know what the future will bring.”