“I was on the cattle car, my sister and I were grabbed by the guards, I stood naked in front of Joseph Mengele,” Richard Lowy said, describing his father’s harrowing experience in the Auschwitz concentration camp during the Second World War.
Lowy, the son of a Holocaust survivor, was in Winnipeg to present his father’s story of survival at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights’ Holocaust Remembrance Day Sunday, a day before the 75th anniversary of the death camp’s liberation on Jan. 27, 1945.
But rather than present it as a father telling his son’s story, Lowy spoke as if he had lived through the horror’s of the Holocaust — he memorized a 38-minute interview his father Leo Lowy gave in 1985 about his time in the Nazi death camp.
The elder Lowy had a twin — he and his sister were subjected to experiments at the hands of Joseph Mengele, a Nazi physician who carried out horrific medical experiments on the camp’s victims.
“It resonates more in this historical experience than if I was to just tell the story of what happened to somebody else — there’s a distance between it — by telling it as a first-hand experience, it resonates,” Lowy said in an interview.
“When you try and tell a story about six million [victims], it’s very hard to comprehend, but when you tell the story of Anne Frank, when you tell the story of Sophie’s Choice — the individual stories are the stories of empathy, people can feel the emotion and relate. This is the story of a 15-year-old boy in a concentration camp.”
Those are important stories to tell today, Lowy said.
“I’m concerned with the growing rise of hatred, just in the world, anywhere it’s going on. Whether it is anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, [discrimination against] the LBGT, people who are physically challenged — this is one of the reasons I’m telling this story,” Lowy said.
“When we don’t understand other peoples’ stories, this is where the problems start — when people are educated from a young age to hate somebody just because they look different than you, because they don’t speak the same language or they’re immigrants… we can’t just look at them and us. We’re in it together.”
About 500 people came to watch Lowy speak his father’s words, accompanied by a violinist and photographs taken during the Second World War at Nazi concentration camps — a new way to tell the stories of the Holocaust, as the surviving few who suffered first-hand come near to the end of their lives.
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