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Auschwitz survivor tells his tale (JERUSALEM POST) By SHIRA TEGER 01/27/05)Source: http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1106796049697 JERUSALEM POST JERUSALEM POST Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
Marvin Mayer, formerly Schmidmayer, does not want the Holocaust forgotten.

Like many survivors, he fears that in 20 – 30 years when he is gone, the Holocaust will be relegated to history books.

So for years, Mayer has been speaking in high schools around the New York area and has accompanied groups to Poland on The March of the Living, telling his personal tale of the horrors of the Holocaust.

On the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, Mayer told his story to The Jerusalem Post.

Marvin Mayer was just a teen in 1944 when the Nazis invaded his town of Bistritz, in Romania. The family fled their home in Dumitra in 1940 after pogroms destroyed their windows and tore down their doors. So the anti-Semitism of the Nazis was not a new reality they had to face.

However, the trials the family suffered were entirely new. After a brief stint in a ghetto, the family was shipped off to Auschwitz- Birkenau.

Mayer´s mother was 46 when she was killed that first night in Birkenau, most likely because she wanted to attend to an ailing neighbor that was taken with them.

Mayer spent about seven months in Auschwitz with his father, marching daily to work in a furniture factory right outside of the camp, where the prisoners made beautiful bedroom sets for SS officers. An orchestra accompanied the group as they left.

In January, before the Russians liberated the camp, Mayer and his father were taken out on a death march. They trudged by night through the knee-deep snow for four or five days, resting in forests during the daytime and subsisting off of nearly nothing.

Twenty thousand people died on that march; people were shot every few seconds. Mayer is still shocked by the sheer numbers, calling the murder of 20,000 people in four nights "mind boggling." He attributes his survival to his father: "If not for my father, I would not be here."

While other people would lie down in the snow to sleep, Mayer and his father would sleep hugging each other back-to-back. His father informed him that if they were to lie down in the snow, they would catch pneumonia and die.

On the fifth night, the remaining prisoners arrived at Gros Rosen. They were there for about two weeks, and according to Mayer, "it was just a horror." They were given only coffee for nourishment, and the ground was more like muddy clay than anything else.

There, too, Mayer says his father saved him. They were all crammed into barracks with no room to lie down, but the Mayers got a spot by the window. That way, they could climb out to go to the bathroom and then climb back in.

From Gros Rosen, Mayer and his father were transported by open cattle car to Buchenwald. At the train station in Buchenwald, the prisoners remained in the cattle cars while the guards stood a small distance from them.

Mayer heard loud noises. "I looked up and saw a bunch of planes. They looked like silver birds." The planes began to swoop down and bomb the station. They did not strike the cattle cars, though. One of the bombs ripped open a wagon filled with cabbages. After days of starvation, Mayer wanted to jump down and eat some cabbage. His father held him back, though, telling him that cabbage on such an empty stomach would tear him apart. In fact, many of those who ate the cabbage died a short while later.

Mayer was in Buchenwald for a few days. By the time he arrived, his pants were torn at the knees. His father tied rags around him to keep him from freezing, and when one of the prisoners died in the barracks, Mayer´s father traded his ration of one slice of bread and a slab of fat to for the dead man´s clothing. "Even there, he bought me a pair of pants."

A few days after the purchase, there was a selection in the camp. Mayer was told to go to the left, his father to the right. That night, they were in separate barracks. Mayer cried to the Jewish guard of his barrack, begging for a chance to go say goodbye to his father. The next morning, the guard managed to get Mayer a pass to go to his father´s barrack.

In Mayer´s family, they had a custom that the father would bless the children every Yom Kippur. With his pass, Mayer went to his father. "He put his hands on my head. He blessed me," Mayer told The Jerusalem Post, trying to hold back his tears. "He said we´d see each other back at home."

That was the last time Mayer saw his father.

The next camp he was sent to was Bisingen, where he remained for two or three weeks, working in a mine trying to make oil from hot shale rock.

When the order came to evacuate the camp, Mayer had a choice to go by train to Daut Mergen, or to leave on foot. At the advice of some "older guys," Mayer went by foot. All those who had boarded the train were killed by machine gun strafing.

When the marchers reached a meadow, the German soldiers jumped into a truck, fleeing. Mayer could hear the shooting of the French army, not far away.

After that, Mayer spent time in a French displaced persons camp, and then in an American one. In the US camp, Mayer registered to go to America. He arrived in the US in 1947 and met Arlene, an opera singer who later became his wife.

His brother and sister, who also survived the war, live in Florida and Los Angeles, respectively.

After serving in the US Army training new recruits on guns for the Korean War, Mayer married Arlene and began his "43 year honeymoon."

The Mayers lived in New York, where Marvin taught woodworking in high schools. They have four children, three of whom live in the US, and one of whom lives in Modi´in, in Israel.

Arlene passed away in February 1996, and Marvin recently purchased an apartment in Modi´in. When he moves into it at the end of April, he will commence lecturing about the Holocaust in area high schools. (© 1995-2004, The Jerusalem Post 01/27/05)

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