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March 7, 2014 3:00 pm
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Holocaust Survivor Set to Meet German President Wonders ‘Should I Accept an Apology?’

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Survivors of the Mauthausen concentration camp cheer the soldiers of the Eleventh Armored Division of the U.S. Third Army one day after their actual liberation in May 1945. Photo: National Archives and Records Administration.

A Greek holocaust survivor scheduled to meet with German President Joachim Gauck on Friday is not sure how she should respond to any remorse he might show, she told the Greek publication Kathimerini this week.

“I wonder should I accept an apology. What they did to us cannot be forgiven,” 90-year-old Esther Koen said, according to a translation of her interview published by Greek portal Enet. “I was left with no relatives to be with me when I die. They left nobody. They burned them all.”

Koen said she is apprehensive about the meeting, which was requested by the president himself. “It feels strange… I’m troubled,” she shared.

“I want to ask him where did all that hate come from to burn millions of people because they happened to have a different religion,” she added.

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Koen is one of two Jews currently living of Ioannina, out of about 50 who survived the Holocaust and returned from the Nazi extermination camp at Auschwitz. She was deported to the camp on March 25, 1944 at the age of 17 with almost the entire Jewish population of the town, some 1,850 men, women and children. Of that number, only 163 survived.

Koen’s parents and her six siblings also ended up in Auschwitz, but she and a sister were the only ones to survive. Talking about the way her Christian neighbors reacted when deportations took place in 1944, she said, “When they threw us out of our homes and dragged us onto the streets to take us to Germany, not one neighbor opened the curtains to see what was going on.”

Koen was saved by a German doctor with Jewish roots and some nurses who hid her in an infirmary when the SS came to take everyone who was there to death camps.

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