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Holocaust remembrance: Survivor, born in Nazi concentration camp, recounts early years

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WARNING -- This article contains details some may find distressing

Angela Orosz is one of the youngest survivors of the Holocaust. On Dec. 21, 1944, she was born in a concentration camp.

"In Grade 1, or Grade 2, in Hungary. You have to write (in school) where you were born,” she said, recounting the moment she started coming to terms with just how different her upbringing had been from other children.

"I couldn’t spell ‘Auschwitz.'"

Orosz described her childhood for a packed house at the Montreal Holocaust Museum on Thursday during a public interview with former CTV National News Anchor Lisa LaFlamme. The event took place on the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

She described her family’s life in Hungary well before she was born, prior to Adolph Hitler’s rise to power and the beginning of the Holocaust.

Between 1941 and 1945, Nazis and collaborators systematically murdered some six million Jews across German-occupied Europe and Nazi Germany. More than two-thirds of Europe’s Jewish population was killed.

Angela Orosz, who was born in Auschwitz-Birkenau, tells her story to a crowded audience during a talk at the Montreal Holocaust Museum moderated by Lisa LaFlamme on Jan. 26, 2023.

Her mother, Vera, came from an educated family. Orosz said her grandmother had passed down four languages — French, German, Slovak, Hungarian — and exposed her mother to classical music from a young age. She met Orosz's father, Tibor, a lawyer, and the two made a life for themselves in Sárospatak, in northeastern Hungary.

Hungarian authorities collaborated with the Nazis through the deportation of thousands of Jews to German-occupied Ukraine, "with full knowledge of the fate that awaited them," according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. In 1942, nearly 1,000 Jews were murdered by Hungarian officials.

Two years later, in May, they came for Orosz's parents. Vera was three months pregnant.

"They said, 'In an hour, you get ready. We’re going to take you to a better place,'" she said.

Tibor was killed after he was separated from Vera on the platform in transit to Auschwitz. That was the last time Vera saw her husband and father of her unborn child.

Six months later, Orosz was born on the top bunk of a cramped sleeping quarter over a thin bed of straw. She says her mother told her that a mere three hours after giving birth, she had to be standing for the camp’s regular roll calls.

At just one pound, she was born too weak to cry, she said — something that may well have saved her life. Her mother hid her on the top bunk for six weeks.

She says she believes her birth inspired her mother to survive until the camp was liberated on Jan. 27, 1945.

SURVEY PROMPTS PLEA FOR AWARENESS ABOUT HOLOCAUST

Orosz has told her story many times, and has said she’s motivated to educate young people so that the atrocities of the past don’t happen again.

"Her story is so unique," said the museum’s spokesperson Sarah Fogg, calling it an example of "incredible resilience" and "strength."

"We hope that we’ll be able to continue to promote this message of Holocaust awareness in order to build a better world," she said, "because there is a direct link … between Holocaust education and the prevention of antisemitism."

A recent survey by the Azrieli Foundation found that more than half of surveyed millennials could not name a single concentration camp or ghetto.

Nearly two in 10 told researchers they either hadn’t heard of the Holocaust or weren’t sure if they had heard of it.

Nearly a quarter of all Canadians believed that substantially less than six million Jews were killed (two million or fewer) during the Holocaust

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