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By Andrew Chambers
Buffalo, NY


 

81503 is not just a set of random numbers, but a symbol of an everlasting series of memories, spanning five years: Years that were filled with more sorrow, suffering and images of death than any human being should be forced to endure. This number was burned on the arm of Morris Glina, a Holocaust survivor, and my grandfather. On October 10, 1924 he was born in an upstairs apartment in Warsaw, Poland. Fifteen birthdays later he would personally experience history's most horrendous event. This tattoo has grown to symbolize the searing memories of inhumanity as well as the burning desire for hope, perseverance and survival (Glina Interview).

Through the 1930s, as Adolph Hitler began to gain political power in Germany, [his] influence was felt in Poland as well. Anti-S.emitism began to flourish. Warsaw's Jewish families were feeling the effects of prejudice towards them simply because of the religion they practiced. Hitler converted German minds and resources into a fully militarized country and launched a campaign of destruction that would signify the beginning of World War II. Warsaw received the first air assault of any major European city Throughout the next four years, the Germans carried out a calculated plan to annihilate the city and its citizenry. In the end, some 500,000 Jews had fallen victim (Holocaust Learning Center).

A week following the German occupation of Poland, soldiers herded all of Warsaw's Jewish families, including the Glinas', into a walled ghetto measuring less than one square mile. Between July 22d and October 3`d, 1942, more than 300,000 inhabitants of the Warsaw Ghetto were sent to concentration camps and murdered (Holocaust Learning Center).

Morris, along with his family, spent over a year in the ghetto before being transported to a concentration camp. Birkenau was just the first. Though isolated from the rest of society inside the barbwire walls of the ghetto, the family would grow closer and strengthen their memories that would last with them for the rest of their lives. Those memories would be all Moms would have to hold onto for strength and comfort through the duration of the war. After his arrival at Birkenau, Morris was separated from his family for the last time. 81503 was branded on his arm the day following his arrival. He asked the: Jewish worker tattooing his arm when he might see his family again? The man pointed to the sky," See the smoke... that's them traveling to heaven." (Glina Interview)

After spending only two months in Birkenau, and still looking fit enough, Morris was selected to work at another concentration camp, Auschwitz, "The Death Camp" as it would come to be known. Morris, along with a group of nine other boys, was chosen to work as a bricklayer. This fateful decision would save his life. Throughout his imprisonment, tens of thousands of human beings were systematically gassed and incinerated if they were no longer capable of assisting Germany's war machine. On April 29t,1945, all the prisoners inside of Auschwitz were instructed that they were to be transported by train to another concentration camp. It is now known that the Germans had planned on slaughtering the remaining prisoners in the mountains in order to hide as much of the evidence as possible. Rumors of the worst kind began to circulate and my grandfather feared he was living his last day. In what could only be seen as a miracle, the train carrying Morris and others was stopped dead in its tracks in Tutzing, Germany by the United States Army. These seven hundred scrawny, ragged, sickly, barely human-looking, walking corpses were liberated (Glina Interview).

The number tattooed on my grandfather's arm, 81503, should serve as a reminder and a lesson to humanity. It is symbolic of the pain and suffering he lived through. It speaks volumes of the bravery within him, and the strength of the human spirit. Although his parents didn't survive the crematories of the death camps, he was determined not to succumb to the Nazi plan. Morris never gave in to the evil nor questioned the purpose of continuing the fight.

Still today, the survivors continue to suffer mentally from the persecution and indignities they faced during their imprisonment. Their stories must be shared with all because they are a living testimony. There is no better a tool for learning for future generations to come. There is, however, limited time left to speak with those who endured this ugliness. To hear and see, word for word and face to face, their personal accounts from histories most horrific event. We must never forget man's inhumanity to man because to do so would undermine the struggles of my grandfather and other Holocaust survivors, as well as the twelve million human voices whose words have been silenced, and faces been erased.

The Nazis persecuted many groups other than just the Jews, a half-century ago. Among their victims were homosexuals, gypsies, the mentally ill, prisoners of war and political opponents of the Third Reich. It would be naive for us to believe that it is impossible for a similar atrocity to happen again in our times. Saddam Hussein gassed millions of Kurds in Iraq in recent history. In the Sudan, Hassan Turabi, once leader of the National Islamic Front, led a program of Islamization through genocide, and to this day slavery is still practiced. Modem day slaves can also be found as child carpet slaves in India or as cane cutters in Haiti and Pakistan. These acts of discrimination, intolerance and depravity must be recognized, not ignored. Humanity must be more aware of world problems, and collectively, we must make a concerted effort to impede the inhumane actions of corrupt leaders throughout the globe.
 

Works Cited:
 

Glina, Morris. Personal Interview. 11 Jain. 2003.

"Holocaust Learning Center." United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Online. <http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/enl>.
 


 

 


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