Holocaust survivor's powerful journey back to Auschwitz

Published: Jan. 27, 2020 at 4:53 PM EST
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People around the world are remembering the tragedy that was the Holocaust. It was 75 years ago today that the largest concentration camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, was liberated, but not before more than one million people were murdered there.

Thousands attended the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz in Poland (video courtesy of Telewizja Polska S.A.). They're paying respects to those impacted by the Holocaust, including those who call our region home.

Thousands gathered on graveyard grounds to remember the lives lost in Poland.

"It's not for fun," said Vladimir Munk, a Holocaust survivor.

Munk, a retired SUNY Plattsburgh microbiology teacher, was a prisoner held at Auschwitz in 1944. His mother, father, cousins and many of his friends never made it out alive.

"It's depressing," Munk said. "So, I thought this is the last chance where I can go to the place where they all were killed or disappeared."

Munk says remembering his past, his experiences during the Holocaust is something he tried not to do for most of his life. But the older he gets, the more he wants to remember, to honor the victims that didn't make it out like he did.

"I just want to go to the place to stay there and think about it. I remember those, I remember," he said.

At the ceremony were other survivors like Munk and world leaders, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the only elected official from the U.S. in attendance.

"Bridging our present to the dark past to ensure a bright future," said Rabbi Michael Miller of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York.

While there, the governor toured the former concentration camp, leaving rocks on the grounds for any visitor to see as a reminder that New York remembers the victims and the tragedy.

"We are so sorry for what you went through and what you endured and the pain that you had to feel is unimaginable," said Cuomo, D-New York.

Munk says all these years later he remembers he would tell himself he needed to fight in order to survive.

"When you do not fight, you lose. When you fight, you may lose but you may win. And when you win, it's always sweet," Munk said. "For me, winning was to survive."