If there was any time that was hell on Earth, it was the Holocaust.
Today, those who endured the atrocities are telling their stories. Esther Bauer is one of these people.
The German native spoke Tuesday at NCC about her experiences during the Holocaust in Germany and Poland in the late 1930s and early 1940s.
She was born in Hamburg in 1924 to a mother who would later become a nurse in Germany and a father who was principal of what later would be an all-Jewish school. Due to the Nazis’ influence in Germany, her schooling was cut short.
“I could only go nine years to the school,” Bauer said, speaking in College Center 220. “I’ve never gone back to that school. What I know today, I taught myself.”
In 1942, when she was 18, Bauer was taken from her home and shipped by train to the Auschwitz concentration camp, where she was forced to live in horrible conditions, sleeping in beds crawling with fleas and lice. Bauer became deathly sick several times while imprisoned but because of friends and true luck, she survived.
Conditions at Auschwitz defied description, especially with the gas chambers that killed so many of Jews.
She will never forget the gas chambers as long as she lives, Bauer said. “I’ll never forget the smell of Auschwitz. The smell of burning flesh was just horrible.”
Bauer was sent to two other camps, Talazine and Mauthausen, where as many as 12 women shared one bed with no pillows, but plenty of fleas and lice. One woman died right next to her, Bauer recalled.
In 1945, the American Army liberated her from Mauthausen and nursed her back to health after she got sick in the days after being freed.
The day she was liberated was “the happiest day of my life,” she said.
Bauer immigrated to America a year later to start over.
“In June 1946, I got visa No. 1 and I came to New York,” she said.
Today, Bauer lives in Yonkers, N.Y. with her “boy-toy,” Bill. She has one son and two grandchildren.