Liberated, But Still Not Free

READY, AIM, FIRE! BANG! Helpless bodies floating in a pool of blood like a float in the pool on a summer day. The sound of the rifle being fired is one sound that haunts Max Victor till this day, from those horrific years spent living in the worst nightmare in mankind. The Holocaust is noted as one of the most horrific and gruesome events on humanity in history. Adolf Hitler, former dictator in Germany during World War II forced millions into concentration camps.[1] His family becoming unfortunate victims of the Holocaust, Max Victor relives those horrific memories from the time of World War II on a daily basis. Max Victor, a Holocaust survivor was lucky enough to live to see the end of the mass killings against friends and family during those cold and bloody years, but is now alone with no family.

According to Max, when World War II broke out, Hitler’s army and mission of exterminating the Jewish community in Europe was in full effect. Nazi officers stationed at every block in neighborhoods, hunting down Jewish people to fill Hitler’s concentration camps. Everyday Max woke up wondering if today would be the day that him and his family would be discovered and taken against their will to one of Hitler’s many camps. Max and his family spent 5 years in hiding before being discovered by Nazi officers in his home.

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Bookcase which led to secret hideout for a Jewish family.

Auftun! Auftun! Auftun! (open up! open up! open up!) Max, along with the rest of his family awoke from the loud demanding voices of Nazi officers during the night. “WE HAVE BEEN DISCOVERED” Max screamed out! Mom, Dad, HURRY! THEY ARE HERE WE NEED TO GO! Nowhere to turn to or escape too, the Victor’s anxiously await the Nazi officers intimidating entrance to take them away. Within in minutes, the Victor’s were captured and forced onto a train where they would be escorted to a concentration camp.[2] Max and his family would be stripped of their humility to be treated like worthless animals. Following the cold bumpy ride on the tracks, Max arrived at one of the most horrific sites he has yet to witness in his twenty-one years of living. The smell of rotten and decayed bodies soaked the air, leaving a distinct smell that would create nausea within the camp amongst the prisoners.[3]

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Jewish prisoners arriving at one of Hitler’s concentration camps.

Bodies stacked on top of one another like bricks being layered for a new building before being disposed of by Nazi officers. Max did not believe this was his reality, he didn’t want to believe this is where his family along with many other Jews came to be brutally massacred and be helpless victims to Hitler’s plan of a mass Jewish genocide. How many more opportunities at life would he get? The second train of Jewish prisoners arriving shortly after Max and his family’s train would be murdered in cold blood immediately upon their arrival to the camp. As soon as the train door opened, Nazi officers awaited patiently before ruthlessly spraying gunshots into the train murdering helpless Jews chained up with no line of defense. Max couldn’t believe what he just witnessed as blood poured from the ledge of the train step from the helpless Jews that were just slaughtered before his eyes.[4]

After receiving his ID brand, he would be separated from his Mom and Dad to be crammed onto a metal shelf, housing hundreds of starving and dying Jewish prisoners. Despite days passing as he slowly withered away on a sheet of cold metal serving as his bed, Max believed there would be a way out. The following morning, Max woke up anxious and confused, “this is real, this is not a dream,” he thought to himself.

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Holocaust survivor shows off identification number tattoo that all concentration camp prisoners recieved upon arrival.

Briefly after, officers swarmed into the bunker where many Jews were sheltered until it was their time to be slaughtered. Max recalls walking out of his shelter and seeing piles of shoes from those who were murdered. The sight of sick and crippled Jewish people embracing each other not begging for mercy shortly before receiving a bullet to the back of the head mentally stripped Max of all emotions. Just about 1,500 Jews were brutally executed everyday. Jews were being murdered in mass groups and after one group was executed, the next group would be ordered to move those dead bodies into a ditch before their execution ensued.[5] “How could no one be stopping these ferocious actions of Hitler, the war has been going on for years now, there has to be someway to put an end to this” he thought to himself one more time.

The last Jew in Vinnitsa, 1941
Jewish man awaiting execution by a Nazi officer.

Three years passed, locked up in a concentration camp like a caged animal, Max’s belief came true. As World War II neared its conclusion there were many concentration camps that were being left abandoned by Hitler and his Nazi soldiers. United States military intelligence discovered an abandoned concentration camp; the exact camp Max had been a prisoner in. United States soldiers arrived to witness the most horrific site, thousands and thousands of Jewish men and women laying dead everywhere within the camp walls. The collection of blood stains dyed the ground a dark red and the stench from the dead bodies swarmed the senses of the United States soldiers immediately.[6] Max was one of very few Jewish people to have survived the Holocaust. He believes that if the United States did not find the camp when they did, he along with the rest of the Jewish people in the camp would have died from starvation and hypothermia. The hours were winding down, and just as he was beginning to lose faith, help arrived.

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Children look on from inside a Concentration Camp.

It has been ten years since Max has seen his parents, and ten years since being freed from one of Hitler’s many concentration camps. Still to this day Max has vivid reoccurring nightmares regarding his first hand experience in the Holocaust. It is hard for him to have a normal life, when the sounds of mass murder and violence are stuck in his head daily. Max recalls what life what like in the concentration camp in his new book “Liberated, but Still Not Free.” He goes into great detail what day-to-day life was and how he always kept the faith the he would not be murdered like everyone else around him. He mentions “the alarms would go off early morning, then Nazi officers would rip us from our sheet metal beds and line us up in a single file line where many of those standing besides me were shot in cold blood.” “For those who were not a victim of the mass shootings were sent to the gas chambers were thousands of innocent Jewish people were gassed to death. Stockpiles of dead bodies were in every corner of the campground and grew by the thousands as the days went on. The day-to-day life was nothing more than living in a lottery. Max was unsure when his time would come but escaping each day with his life was like winning the lottery according to him. Waking up each morning seeing the dead bodies, piles of shoes from those murdered and blood sprayed everywhere like a painter splashing fresh paint on a white canvas was something that made him numb inside.[7]

Being liberated from the camp is one blessing that Max is thankful for everyday, however the ringing sound of gunshots, screams, and the sight and smell of thousands dying each day is something he has yet to shake off. Max writes in his book “You truly don’t know how to react to the sight of bloodshed that is as natural as rain and bodies being tossed into a ditch like yesterday’s trash, it is truly sickening and something I have been able to shake off, I lived through three years of torture and have been blessed enough to escape the mass slaughtering.” Having your life taken from you in a blink of an eye is one thing, but having to experience three years of slaughter and pure barbaric behavior against humans is another. Max is thankful that he was able to live through such a hard time throughout history and during his life. Those experiences haunt him everyday and have despite escaping death; he has yet to escape the numb empty feeling that the Holocaust has left him with.

[1] This source touches on the history of Germany and Hitler leading up to the formation of Nazi death camps, also known as Concentration Camps. The horrors of what troops witnessed while liberating Jews from these camps and the violence that took place during the camps.

History.com Staff. “The Holocaust.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2009. Web. 6 Apr. 2017.

[2] A secondary source giving insight on the true-life story of Anne Frank and her family in hiding in attempt to escape imprisonment from the Nazi’s. Anne Frank and her family were able to live in hiding for a while due to a bookcase that would protect their location in hiding.

Stichting, Anne Frank. “The Story of Anne Frank: The Hiding Place.” Anne Frank House. N.p., 15 Apr. 2010. Web. 6 Apr. 2017.

[3] This is the website for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. From this site, I was able to find secondary sources regarding life in Concentration Camps, along with insight on the horrors experienced and witnessed from Holocaust survivors.

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, n.d. Web. 6 Apr. 2017.

[4] This source explains how violent and horrific the killings of millions of Jews actually were. The mobile killing squads deployed by Hitler against the Jews destroyed homes and many families during the times of WWII.

“Mobile Killing Squads.” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, n.d. Web. 6 Apr. 2017.

[5] A primary source of first a hand account of the mass shootings and killings in the Concentration Camps.

“Modern History Sourcebook: Hermann Friedrich Graebe: Account of Holocaust Mass Shooting, 1942.” Internet History Sourcebooks. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Apr. 2017

[6] Arnold Ropeik, an United States WWII veteran speaks on Concentration Camps. Ropeik speaks on what him and fellow American troops witness while liberating a German Nazi occupied Concentration Camp.

History.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 6 Apr. 2017.

[7] This is the website for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. From this site, I was able to find secondary sources regarding life in Concentration Camps, along with insight on the horrors experienced and witnessed from Holocaust survivors.

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, n.d. Web. 6 Apr. 2017.

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