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Bracebridge woman recounts living in 'hole in the ground' before Auschwitz liberation

A woman from Bracebridge is remembering the atrocities of war on this anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp.
Eva Olsson says 'hate is not a joke. It's a killer.' (John Robertson/CBC)

A woman from Bracebridge, Ont., is remembering the atrocities of war on this anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. 

Eva Olsson, 95, is speaking out against hate today in memory of the more than a million children killed in the Holocaust.

More than 1.1 million people were murdered at Auschwitz-Birkenau. The Nazi regime made it the key killing ground for its plan to exterminate the Jewish people.

Olsson lost most of her family in Auschwitz.

She and her sister were at a slave labour camp in Bergen-Belsen, Germany when the camp was liberated on April 15, 1945.

Olsson lived in a bunker she called a "hole in the ground," after a bombing left it barely standing. 

"We got back from work, and there was no place to sleep, except for a hole. What kind of hole? It was a dark hole," she said. "We figured it must have been storage for some vegetables like an old fashioned root cellar."

"No light, no window, nothing. That's where I was, seventy-five years ago this month." 

She stayed in the hole, still working in the slave camp, until Allied forces liberated the camp.

"There was a small miracle out of the ashes," Olsson said. "Orders were given that all prisoners were to be shot at 3 o'clock that afternoon and we were liberated by the British and Canadians that came in from Holland at 11 o'clock that morning."

Olsson said she was afraid to talk about her situation for many years, but has been active since 1996 when she had the opportunity to speak to her grandchildren's classmates.

"I have since done over 3,800 presentations," she said. "The United Nations twice. The military, the air force, for provincial police, for churches, wherever the calling is."

Olsson said she is using the chance to remind people how hatred perpetuates war and death.

"Hate murdered one and a half million children — five of those children were my nieces: a three-and-a-half year old, a two-year-old, a one-year- old, six months and a two-month old," Olsson said.

"Hate is not a joke. It's a killer."

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