World Auschwitz survivor Leon Schagrin: 'The suffering does not disappear'

Auschwitz survivor Leon Schagrin: ‘The suffering does not disappear’


Leon Schagrin keeps a supply of white organisation cards on him to distribute with a plea on one side.

” Let no Holocaust victim be forgotten!” one side of a card checks out.

The opposite has his name, contact number and, in italics, the title he made 75 years earlier on January 27, 1945.

” Survivor from Auschwitz.”

To go out alive, he sustained years of near-death experiences.

Being stuffed for days in a livestock wagon while naked, as individuals passed away or defecated at his feet. Being beaten. Using wood blockages in winter season. Back-breaking labour while almost starving. 

Auschwitz was “a business factory of eliminating”, he informed Al Jazeera.

” Look at the railway when you pass eviction. The railway goes direct to the crematorium. I was dealing with it. It was some task.”

At 93, Schagrin has actually lost the majority of the survivors he understood.

“In the last 10 years, they really quickly they died,” he stated about his regional group in South Florida, where he has actually lived because the late 1970 s.

On December 2, 2019, the one closest to him passed away – his partner, Betty Sternlicht, who, together with her siblings, had actually endured due to the fact that they got onto Oskar Schindler’s list.

“I had 62 years of life with her, an excellent life,” Schagrin stated.

Framed images of the couple decorate their apartment or condo, consisting of among them smiling at a beach.

I had the number – and they understood right now you were a Jew. I stated to my partner, ‘you understand, I’m going to cover this with anything.’.

Leon  Schagrin, Holocaust survivor

A couple of weeks after her death at 97, Schagrin went to a lunch for Holocaust survivors all over the world – an occasion called Café Europa

He used a blue sports jacket that matched his eyes, which have a hard time to see due to the fact that of macular degeneration. His memory, however, stays undamaged. 

Schagrin informed Al Jazeera about the recentlies of his jail time.

“I could not go to the death march from Auschwitz as I was injured really terribly,” stated Schagrin, indicating a scar on his lower neck brought on by shrapnel from bombs stopped by the United States Air Force on December 26, 1944, over a factory where he had actually laboured, in a camp called Auschwitz III, or Monowitz.

Schagrin’s neck injury had actually grown contaminated and he established a fever. Right after, detainees discovered they would leave the camp by foot through the snow in the middle of January1945

The Soviet forces were quick approaching and the Nazis were rushing to get away with their detainees in tow. 

Due to the fact that he was too weak to keep up the rate and ran the risk of getting shot,

Schagrin did not go on the march.

Instead, he holds on to life without a crumb of food for almost 2 weeks till Soviet soldiers freed approximately 7,000 detainees, including him.

He was 18 then and weighed simply 80 pounds (36 kg).

As Schagrin spoke, live music played in the background. 2 males attempted to keep spirits up – a high order at a Holocaust survivor event. One sang, with accordion accompaniment, a tune from Fiddler on the Roof called, To Life, about hope.

When Schagrin left Auschwitz, he had little hope of discovering any household. 

His moms and dads, Hersch and Chaja Schagrin, and his 5 brother or sisters passed away in the gas chambers of Belzec, a German extermination camp in eastern Poland where the Nazis killed 600,000 individuals, mainly Jews.

Auschwitz survivor Leon Schagrin and his partner Betty Sternlicht, likewise a Holocaust survivor however with the assistance of Oskar Schindler’s list. They wed in Haifa on June 26, 1958 [Courtesy of Leon Schagrin and Stephen Shooster]

In 2012, he all of a sudden reunited with a cousin and fellow survivor of the camps, Leo Adler.

After 70 years apart, Adler found that Schagrin lived just when he got a copy of Schagrin’s narrative – The Horse Adjutant: A kid’s life in the Nazi Holocaust, released in 2011.

” A pal of my moms and dads stated you need to read this book,” remembered Gary Adler, Leo’s boy, who spoke with Al Jazeera due to the fact that his daddy does not hear well over the phone.

Leo Adler had actually experienced the Holocaust himself and did not believe he required to check out another account of it, however he opened it and discovered names of his own loved ones – which this Leon Schagrin was his cousin.

Leon had actually altered his name from Lemel, which is the name Leo Adler understood him by.

” My daddy was incredibly delighted. It was a big offer,” Gary Adler stated.

The cousins utilized to see each other after reuniting, when Leo Adler and his partner hung out in South Florida, however they reside in New York state completely now, which range keeps them apart once again.

For years, Schagrin wished to compose that narrative, and he employed fellow Floridian Stephen Shooster to do it.

Shooster invested years, with the assistance of buddies, collecting Schagrin’s life story. It covers almost 300 pages. In spite of his hectic full-time work, Shooster did it due to the fact that he desired Schagrin to satisfy the guarantee he made to Hersch, his daddy.

” Leon’s daddy informed him to inform the world the story about what occurred to them,” Shooster composed in the book. “It is not a story. It is an alarming caution. It can take place once again.”

That’s why Schagrin’s dealt with to discuss his past over and over.

” You need to comprehend, my past resembles actions up and steps down,” Schagrin stated. “Some time was really rough, a long time was much easier, however in basic, you put whatever together, the suffering does not disappear.”

The suffering followed Schagrin to New York City, where he and Betty lived for several years. He knew that anti-Semitism stopped him from getting work.

” I had the number – and they understood right now you were a Jew,” Schagrin stated about the “161744” tattooed on his left lower arm at Auschwitz.

” I stated to my partner, you understand, I’m going to cover this with anything.”

And he did; in the mid-1960 s he strolled into a parlour and covered it up with a long black panther tattoo. 

Leon Schagrin covered the ‘161744’ tattooed on his left lower arm at Auschwitz with a black panther he got in New York City in the mid-1960 s [Courtney Ortiz, courtesy of Stephen Shooster]

Later the couple transferred to Sunrise, Florida. They never ever had kids, Schagrin has actually surrounded himself with trainees at public schools, where he provides talks.

Ivy Schamis has actually hosted him at a class she taught at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida –  the exact same school where, on February 14, 2018, a 19- year-old previous trainee eliminated 17 kids and personnel with a semi-automatic rifle. The shooter had actually engraved swastikas onto ammo publications.

Two trainees who passed away had actually taken Schamis’s Holocaust research studies class. 

“To recover, a great deal of these kids from the shooting, specifically the ones who remained in my class throughout the shooting, they return and they’ll check out passages of his book simply for motivation,” Schamis stated. “They went through such terrible times in their life and they brought out respectable mindsets and the will to keep living and going.”

On Monday,  the Auschwitz Memorial will celebrate 75 years because the freedom of the German camps. Organisers anticipate approximately 200 Auschwitz and Holocaust survivors to join them, though Schagrin will not exist. He did go back to Poland when, in 2004.

” January is a crucial month for me,” he stated from his apartment or condo. When asked if he wants to get together with other survivors in your area, he stated he chooses to go to trainees.

” Otherwise,” he stated, “they will not fulfill a survivor.”

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