Palm Desert, CA
"Oh my god," says Erika Fein as she watches white supremacists march in Charlottesville in protest of the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
Fein is a holocaust survivor.
"I can’t believe it, if I wouldn’t see it with my own eyes I wouldn’t believe it. Oh my god, " she says as she continues watching protesters marching while holding up torches and Nazi flags shouting racist rhetoric.
Through tears, she says it gave her chills and it causes her great pain to watch. "This happened here in our country in our beautiful America and that’s the part that I’m having difficulties here, because this just isn’t America, this is not the America that I know and love."
Fein survived the deadliest camp, where’s Hitler’s "Final Solution" was carried out against Jewish people like her. Auschwitz.
"We realized that once they remove you from the camp the reason they remove you was to take you to the crematorium," she says.
She says she’s only alive because two women had the courage to run out of the line leading to the gas chamber. As she and others ran and hid the two women were shot dead.
She says her father and uncle were murdered at that camp and she watched her mother and aunt die as a result of the torture they endured, "They were so weak and so rundown that they were half dead and sure enough as we lay on the floor I looked at them one day and they didn’t speak any more."
She says it didn’t start out with mass murder at concentration camps. In the in the beginning, Jewish families like hers in then Yugoslavia, just followed orders. Then when Nazis rounded up a third of the town including her aunt and uncle who was a doctor, the horrors began.
"They supposedly said that they just wanted to check their papers but what they did was, they killed them and they shot them and they threw them in the Danube so the the Danube certainly was not blue," she says.
She says she’ll never forget the feeling of finally reaching America, "I felt like I reached heaven, it felt wonderful," adding that she still gets that feeling when she comes home from a trip, "I actually bent down and kissed the ground, because I’m so very grateful to be an American."
She tells her story to remind anyone who will listen that the horrors started with hatred, "We have to make this a better world … we just have to stop hating, we can’t hate any group on mass," she says as she cries.
She says those who raise the Nazi flag on American soil wouldn’t want to live one day under that regime, "It was quite horrible because they made you feel less than human."
While the images out of Virginia, broke her heart, she says there is one that gave her hope, the image of the woman killed standing up to hate: Heather Heyer, "She didn’t have to do that, she went out and, remarkable human being," adding Heyer represents the America she knows and loves, "I am Heather Heyer. I am Heather Heyer."
Six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust, over million of them in Auschwitz. Fein says we can’t stop telling their stories so that it doesn’t happen ever again.