Tuesday marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland.
As a 14-year-old, Katherine Griesz, now 84, awaited execution in Budapest’s Central Ghetto before the Allied liberation. Her father was killed by the Nazis, and after the war, Griesz escaped to Switzerland on a student visa, while her mother was imprisoned at Kistarcsa internment camp under Stalin.
Griesz, an urban historian and retired tour guide who lives in Forest Hills, Queens, spoke with Metro about the importance of commemorating International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and sharing her own experiences during the era.
It took you nearly 70 years for you to open up and start sharing your own story. Why now?
“I now have perspective. Our generation, the ones who survived the Holocaust is fading away, dying out. It was very important for me to share my story and tell people what happened, why it happened and make the readers of my book feel that they are my co-witnesses, not just as the readers of a book but as participants. They are there on the scene, they are part of what is happening.”
What’s a message for young people, especially those involved with social movements, such as Black Lives Matter. Are there any parallels, lessons from your history for them?
“Racism in any shape or form can not be tolerated, whether it is color or religion based. We are all different and we do not necessarily have to love each other, but we must respect each other, each others' faith and race because we are all part of humanity.”
What’s one lesson you hope readers take away from your story?
“Nip antisemitism in the bud and ensure that the world will never experience another genocide. My story emphasizes the importance of International Holocaust Day and underlines the necessity of keeping memories alive and reminds us to keep forever vigilant, regardless of national boundaries.”