Montreal Holocaust survivors remember Auschwitz
Holocaust survivors in Montreal are marking the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp in Poland at several events on Wednesday.
The city's Holocaust Memorial Centre is hosting theatrical readings at several schools and a panel discussion on human rights to remember the liberation.
Soviet troops marched through the snow into the largest German concentration camp on Jan. 27, 1945, to find all Nazi officers had fled the camp, leaving barracks filled with emaciated prisoners.
For Montrealer Liselotte Ivrey, her survival of Auschwitz still feels like a miracle.
"To imagine that we left Auschwitz, it's unbelievable, it's absolutely unbelievable," said the Montreal grandmother, in an interview with CBC.
The Czech-born Jew was 17 and living in Prague with her family when they were sent to Auschwitz.
Her mother died weeks later of dysentery, followed by her brother, who was rounded up with thousands of other prisoners in the middle of the night.
"They took them by truck to the gas chamber," Ivrey said. "Close to 5,000 Czech Jews."
Ivrey said she thought it would be her turn next, but fate intervened, in the form of the "Butcher of Auschwitz" himself, Dr. Joseph Mengele.
In early 1944, the Nazis decided some of the prisoners would be transferred to help clean up and rebuild heavily bombed German cities. Ivrey stood in line naked with hundreds of others, until she was face to face with Mengele and two SS officers.
"The ones that they wanted to live, [the soldiers] wrote down our numbers. We were 'chosen' to live. He played God," she said.
"I was very lucky because I suffer psoriasis," said Ivrey. "And just at that time I was free of it. Because if I would have had an an attack of it, I would have been full of little scabs, and I wouldn't be sitting here today."
Ivry worked in factories and camps around Hamburg before being transferred to the Bergen-Belsen camp, which was liberated by the British army a year later in the spring of 1945.
She now has 10 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
More than 9,000 Holocaust survivors settled in Montreal after the Second World War.
Five thousand still live in Montreal, which has the third largest population of Holocaust survivors in the world, after New York City and Israel.