Concentration camp survivor talks of second chance at life
When most people promise to roll up their sleeves, the act produces expectations for hard work. When Sol Lurie turns up his left sleeve, that action creates an entirely different reaction from onlookers as their eyes laser beam to B2858, in this case, a scribbled ink connection to his Jewish status inside a strand of Nazi concentration camps.
Lurie, 87, captivated a Trinity Church audience Friday evening as One Table Café guests heard memories of his childhood, being pitched into a Lithuanian ghetto then transported to a strand of concentration camps.
Dinner had produced a cacophony of silverware, conversations and laughter before the diminutive Lurie, traced a childhood tale that started at 11.
Germans forced Lurie and family members into the Kovno ghetto, a precursor to an eventual residence Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Auschwitz operated as a network of three concentration camps controlled by the Third Reich in Polish areas during World War II.
An estimated 1.1 million people died there, most of them Jewish.
“The gas chambers and burning of bodies never stopped, it was a 24-7 operation,” Lurie said.
“You could smell flesh burning. Even now if I smell barbecue, my mind goes back to Auschwitz. We didn’t know exactly what it was, but you could smell the flesh.”
Lurie said he and thousands of others escaped death when Germans struck a deal to end the killings in Auschwitz in exchange for 10,000 trucks. He eventually orphaned in France.
Lurie recounted experiences as images from the Holocaust projected onto a screen, Buchenwald, another large German concentration camp; gas chambers; bodies gassed then burned.
His stories included an incident when a Nazi officer ended a baby’s crying by tossing the child skyward then impaling it on a bayonet.
Lurie described a clandestine childhood. “It seemed like I was always hiding. Slipping between houses to avoid German soldiers.”
Although one day a getaway forced Lurie into an outhouse where he slipped into a hole filled with feces and urine.
“I hid out until the danger passed. Maybe for an hour. And when I got home, my mother was just happy that I walked through the door. She took me in her arms and hugged me, even in that condition,” Lurie said.
The Rev. Paul Jeanes, Rector for Trinity Church offered “sometimes we need to see what we don’t want to see and know what we don’t want to know, and hear
what we don’t want to hear to make sure that things like this never happen again.”
Lurie portrayed himself and other Jewish survivors, as people spared to tell their stories about the hell of the Holocaust which accounted for the murder of six million Jews.
“And to love. What good would it do if I hated people. That would make me as bad as the Nazis,” Lurie said.
Lurie has always celebrated that he outlived Hitler. He called his post concentration ordeal a second chance at love and life.
Elie Wiesel, a famous Jewish author, humanitarian, world activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner, endured his time in Auschwitz-Birkenau before being transported to Buchenwald.
Freedom eventually arrived an Wiesel penned fantastic insights and inspirations about living.
“That I survived the Holocaust and went on to love beautiful girls, to talk, to write, to have toast and tea and live my life that is what is abnormal,” Wiesel wrote.
Lurie promised to live and speak out until love conquers hate.
“Until we accept each other as brothers and sisters,” Lurie said.
Lurie resides in Monroe. Twp. N.J. He speaks frequently about his life experiences.
A packed house at One Table Cafe turned out to listen to holocaust survivor Sol Lurie.
Sol Lurie rolled his sleeve to display Nazi concentration insignia B2858, shown at upper right.
Sol Lurie rolled his sleeve to display Nazi concentration insignia B2858.