Borough Park

Holocaust survivor makes emotional return to Auschwitz

May 8, 2017 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Holocaust survivor Bronia Brandman (second from right) walks through the front gate of the Auschwitz death camp with Brig. Gen. Zvika Haimovich, Holocaust survivor Giselle Cycowicz, Friends of the Israel Defense Forces National VP Robert Cohen, and Maj. Gen. Meir Klifi-Amir (left to right). Photos by Shahar Azran
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In an emotional journey that served as her ultimate triumph over the Nazis, an elderly Borough Park resident who survived the horrors of the Holocaust paid a return visit to the infamous Auschwitz death camp — this time as a free woman.

It was the first time Bronia Brandman, 86, had seen Auschwitz since her liberation nearly 72 years ago.

For her return trip, Brandman was accompanied by a delegation comprised of officers of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), as well as members of the group 40 Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF).

“I came to Auschwitz in 1943 as a child of 12. My parents and four siblings were consigned to the gas chambers. The daily bestiality and dehumanization was beyond words, and the world’s silence was deafening,” Brandman said in a statement. “I never wished to return to that place of our degradation and annihilation, but to return in the presence of our noblest, the bravest of the brave — our IDF soldiers, allows my spirit to soar with pride and hope.”

Her journey back to Auschwitz was part of a 10-day trip to Poland and Israel sponsored by FIDF.

Israeli soldiers and FIDF supporters accompanied a group of Holocaust survivors across Poland and Israel. The trip began on April 24 and ended May 3.

“This mission was one of the last opportunities for these survivors to return to Auschwitz and tell of its horrors,” said FIDF National Vice President Robert Cohen. “It was a rollercoaster emotional experience for everyone involved. We passed through the gates of hell, ignoring the false promise that ‘work sets you free,’ where countless Jews suffered from unimaginable cold, hunger and despair. We were surrounded by those who survived within the camps’ walls, and also by those who make sure they are not forgotten — the brave soldiers who protect their legacy: the state of Israel and the Jewish diaspora around the world.”

Brandman, who was born in Jaworzno, Poland, watched in horror as two of her sisters were sent to the gas chambers. Her entire family, with the exception of her older brother and a cousin, died at the hands of the Nazis.

After immigrating to the U.S., Brandman had vowed never to return to Poland. But she decided to come to Auschwitz as part of the FIDF’s “From Holocaust to Independence” delegation.

While in Poland, the delegation attended a reception and heard from IDF Chief of the General Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot.

In a touching moment during the reception, Miri Amir, an Israeli Holocaust survivor, was reunited with Miroslawa Gruszczynska, the woman whose family hid her from the Nazis in Poland during World War II.

The delegation traced the Jewish community’s steps from Warsaw Ghetto to the Buczyna forest, where the Nazis executed more than 800 children. The group then visited the site of Auschwitz.

The delegation also flew to Israel, where they met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin, visited IDF bases, commemorated Israel’s Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and celebrated Israel’s Independence Day.

“This historic delegation traced the modern history of the Jewish people through the eyes of Holocaust survivors and IDF officers,” said Maj. Gen. Meir Klifi-Amir, national director and CEO of the FIDF. “It told the story of our near extinction in Europe, the creation of a Jewish homeland and the new generation of Jewish defenders of the Jewish people who safeguard our legacy today. By marching together into the dreadful Auschwitz-Birkenau camps with IDF soldiers and the survivors who somehow endured that torture, we sent a powerful message to the world that we remember and that the Holocaust cannot and will not ever happen again.”


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