Angela Orosz, Auschwitz-born Montrealer, returns to Poland for liberation anniversary

Angela Orosz was born in Auschwitz in the dying days of the Second World War. She's returning for the first time to the death camp that claimed the lives of her father and other family members.

One of the youngest Holocaust survivors, Orosz was an infant when Auschwitz was liberated

RAW: The baby born in Auschwitz

8 years ago
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Angela Orosz was born in the Nazi concentration camp in the dying days of WWII. Now, for the first time, she's returning to Auschwitz on the 70th anniversary of the liberation.

Angela Orosz came into this world in one of the most horrific places imaginable. 

As thousands of Jews around her were sent to the gas chambers, Orosz's mother hid her pregnancy for months from her Nazi captors.

On Dec. 21, 1944, Orosz was born in Auschwitz. 

Within the month, Orosz and everyone else who had managed to cling to life in the desolate camp were liberated. 

Seventy years later, Orosz — now a Montrealer — is returning to her birthplace to honour those who perished there, in an act of defiance against those who tried to erase her future. 

"I was offered the trip, and I was very hesitant to take it, but my kids pushed me," Orosz said, just days before leaving for Poland. 

A portrait shows Angela Orosz as a child. Her mother was sent to a Nazi concentration camp when she was two months pregnant, but managed to hide her pregnancy. (Submitted by Angela Orosz)

"My daughter said, 'We have to go there, and we have to show it that we are alive, we have [a] big family, and we have to show Hitler didn't achieve what he wanted.'"

About 300 former Auschwitz prisoners are travelling to Oswiecim, Poland, to pay tribute on Jan. 27. They will gather at Birkenau's "gate of death," the unloading ramp at the camp's rail entrance.

Some 1.1 million people passed under the camp's infamous sign "Arbeit Macht Frei" (most often translated as "Work Will Set You Free") between 1940 and 1945.

A group of women and children in concentration camp uniforms are pictured at Auschwitz just after the liberation by the Soviet army in January 1945. (Associated Press)

Most of them would never leave, murdered in the camp's gas chambers.

Only about 200,000 people are believed to have survived that fate.

Orosz and her mother were among them. 

A newborn at the time the camp was liberated, Orosz is one of the youngest Auschwitz survivors. She has never been back. 

Her parents met while her mother, Vera Otvos, was working as a nanny and her father, Tibor Bein, as a lawyer in Hungary. 

In 1943, they were married. A year later, they were forced into a Jewish ghetto and, not long after that, onto a train bound for Auschwitz. 

Vera Otvos and Tibor Bein, Angela's parents, were married in Budapest in 1943. Her father did not survive Auschwitz. (Submitted by Angela Orosz)

Orosz's mother was two months pregnant when she arrived at the camp and last saw her husband. She hid the pregnancy from her captors. 

Her father, grandparents, aunts and uncles all perished in the camps.

"I grew up without family. We didn't have families. Everybody passed away in Auschwitz," she said.

"It's a lot of candles I have to light there." 

Liberated on Jan. 27, 1945

The Red Army freed 7,000 of the survivors from Auschwitz on Jan. 27, 1945. Amid the scramble to find loved ones and food and other supplies, Orosz's mother met the man who would become her child's stepfather. 

Angela Orosz's birth certificate, reissued in 1989, lists Auschwitz as her place of birth. (Submitted by Angela Orosz)

"My stepfather found my mother, and he heard I was born, and he was the one who said to my mother, 'This baby needs a birth certificate,'" she said. 

"My mother said, 'This baby has to leave, I don't care about a birth certificate.' But he went into Auschwitz and got the birth certificate for me."

The pair met again the next year and married a short time later. 

"I lived the most beautiful life with him. He spoiled me," Orosz said of her stepfather.

She remained an only child because her mother was left sterilized from experiments performed by the notorious Nazi "Angel of Death," Dr. Josef Mengele.

Orosz's mother shielded her about the horrors within the gates of Auschwitz for most of her life.

However, 70 years later, even though she has no memory of the concentration camp, the guilt lingers. 

"I was very afraid to see the place where she was suffering," Orosz said. 

"She was pregnant, and when you’re pregnant, maybe you don’t feel top of the world, and I was the cause for it. All the suffering she had to go through. She was always telling me, 'If you don’t have memories, don’t go [after them].'"

Angela Orosz's daughter, Katy, poses with her mother, Vera Otvos, who survived the concentration camp. Katy convinced Angela to travel back to Auschwitz for the anniversary. (Submitted by Angela Orosz)

The only details she knows about her mother's time in the concentration camp came in the form of an audio recording her daughter produced for a school project. She still has that tape. 

Each year, Orosz's mother would mark the day of the liberation.

She would cry inconsolably for those who never left the camp alive and relive the day when she was finally free of her Nazi captors. 

When she died in 1992, her daughter believes, she held on to life an extra day in order to mark that anniversary. 

"She died on Jan. 28. We said she just wanted to pull through and not die on Jan. 27. We were convinced of that."

Angela Orosz's family snapshots include an image of her mother and father (far left).