SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – The 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz was marked in a solemn ceremony in Poland as Jamie Richman of Savannah remembered her visit to the concentration camp last spring.
“That’s the day that we were in Auschwitz,” she tells me as we view pictures on her phone. “That’s the train station.”
Richman works for the Savannah Jewish Federation and she and 13 others from Savannah went to Poland last year to be part of a large remembrance ceremony.
“It was called ‘March of the Living’ and it’s an international trip,” she said. “The idea is that you march from Auschwitz to Birkenau on Holocaust Remembrance Day.”
“We were walking in their footsteps and choosing to remember and honor them, the thousands, the millions who walked in but didn’t come out,” said Richman.
She sent us pictures of the famous signs outside, that many may have seen in films, along with a picture inside one of the gas chambers.
“At first I thought it was a little unbelievable that I was choosing to walk into the camps, to walk into Auschwitz, that it was my choice to walk into the gas chambers but then I was able to walk out,” said Richman.
“That was a powerful moment for me as I was standing in the gas chambers where you can see finger scratch marks on the walls but my group friends were able to walk out and tell those stories,” she added.
Richman has a young son and took a photo of a pair of child’s shoes. Nazis collected shoes from dead prisoners and it’s now part of the museum at Auschwitz.
“We saw suitcases because every person was told they could have one suitcase and each of those suitcases represents one person’s most valuable items that they wanted to bring,” she told News 3.
“We were told to look at the giant display of suitcases and shoes and pick out one of them, pick out one and think of that individual’s story.
“And so when we were in the shoe area there was one little pair of white shoes that were there and I have a two-year-old and that reminded me of his first shoes. So you think about those families and these children and that made it personal.”
There were also large books of names of those who died at Auschwitz.
Surprisingly she found her last name there.
Richman said it was apparently cousins of her grandfathers: “Those are people that have been lost to my family forever.”
She says the discovery made the trip more painful and her need to tell others about the Holocaust more urgent.
“We see what’s going on in the world now. There’s been a 150 percent rise in anti-Semitism over the last few years and it’s important to keep the education going,” said Richman.
“Auschwitz is real. The Holocaust is real, it happened and It’s important to continue telling their stories,” she said.
Richman says with fewer survivors of the Holocaust still alive, it is the duty of people such as herself (especially those who have seen the camps) to work to advance more educational efforts.