Local Holocaust Survivor Speaks

Sixty years ago yesterday, Soviet soldiers liberated prisoners from the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz. Those who made it through the concentration camps are not taking their freedom for granted. We spoke with one man who survived.

Josef Schonthal lost part of his family in Auschwitz. He spent four years in concentration camps. His memories are still very vivid and his freedom is still very precious.

"When they took [my family] to Auschwitz, that was the last time that I saw them," Schonthal said.

More than 60 years after that fateful day, people from around the world gathered at Auschwitz in Poland to remember the end of the Holocaust. More than a million people lost their lives there.

Many others, like Schonthal, were separated from their families at other camps. Life was a daily struggle. "We knew what was waiting for us," he said. "We knew we could die at any minute."

Schonthal never saw his parents, sister or younger brother again. He spent four years in concentration camps before British soldiers finally liberated him in 1945. "They said, 'You're free. Don't worry about it. We have food for you.'"

He was even reunited with one of his brothers. "We saw each other. We hugged each other and said, 'We're liberated and there's no more worrying. We're free. Food is coming.'"

Sixty years later, for Schonthal and Holocaust survivors around the world, that freedom--bought after such a price--is still precious.

"We never should forget," Schonthal said. "We never can forget the Holocaust. Never."

More than 6 million Jews died in death camps during the Holocaust, of more than 11 million total victims.

Reported by: Liz Flynn, lflynn@wtoc.com