Ten Auschwitz survivors met Pope Francis in the same Nazi concentration camp they have etched into their memory from so many years ago. Two of them sat down to share a bit more of their stories; stories in which they say the atrocity is unable to be understood unless a person lived it.
"So to have the whole vision, one needs to have experienced it... But there was a lot of horrible things going on, there are no doubts. There are stories that prove it.”
Alojzy Fros, who is 99 years old, was forced into the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1943 as a prisoner and remained there until the end of the war. On the other hand, Ewa Umlauf's story is much different.
"I survived Auschwitz when I was two years old. I was born December, 1942, at the workcamp Nowaki in Slovakia, then was transported to a different camp, Auschwitz.”
In addition to emotional wounds and memories, the unsanitary conditions at the Nazi concentration camp led to physical illnesses that stayed with them throughout their life.
"I will remember it for whole my life, It was in block 21 and after reception they lead me to the room on the first floor, and the door to the bathrooms were open, and passing by I saw human bodies placed like the wood in the forest: one layer here, another over there, something like 1,5 meters high. This was so strong an experience, I have it so fresh in my mind that when I close my eyes I see this terrible picture.”
These images and the resulting fears stuck with them far into adulthood. Despite this, they never lost their fight or desire to live.
"I want to convey to the youth that it is worth the fight, in order to live. Learning from the past gives us power, because the past never ends. When you don’t consider the past, you have no future.”
Pope Francis also concluded his meeting by sending a message not only on behalf of youth, but on behalf of all humanity: "Lord, have mercy on your people, sorry for such cruelty."