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April 28, 2023 12:59 pm

Auschwitz Museum Grants Holocaust Survivor First Access to Block Where He Was Imprisoned as Child


avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

David Schaecter inside Block 8 at the former site of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Photo: Courtesy of FIDF

A Holocaust survivor recently became the first member of the public granted access by the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Museum to enter the former Nazi concentration camp’s “Block 8,” a typically private section of the museum, so he could see once again where he was imprisoned for three years, The Algemeiner has learned.

David Schaecter, 94, of Miami, Florida, made the emotional return to Auschwitz as part of the “Holocaust to Independence” nine-day mission through Poland and Israel hosted by Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) from April 19 until 27. The trip took place during Israel’s 75th Independence Day and more than 80 years after Schaecter escaped death as a prisoner in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. During the three years he was imprisoned in Block 8 as a child, Schaecter was starved, tortured and the witness to thousands of murders, including those of his family members, according to the FIDF.

“Having to walk through Cell 8 was choking,” he said of the visit in a statement, released by the FIDF. “While I was prepared for the trauma, I almost fainted. I don’t know how in G-d’s name I came out of the Holocaust alive. What gave me strength was having IDF commanders by my side, as well as FIDF supporters who saw first-hand some of the horrors of what we experienced during the most horrendous time in history.”

Schaecter is one of the founders of the Holocaust Memorial in Miami Beach and The March of the Living. The film A Call to Remember: The David Schaecter Story was produced in 2018 about his life and a testimony about his experiences during the Holocaust will be featured in an interactive exhibit expected to open in a museum in Boston in 2025, the FIDF said.

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A delegation of 120 people took part in the Holocaust to Independence mission, including IDF soldiers, Holocaust survivor Ben Midler and FIDF supporters from across the US. The mission is part of FIDF’s Witnesses in Uniform Program, which gives IDF soldiers a first-hand look at the atrocities that unfolded during the Holocaust to help them have a new-found understanding of their Jewish identity.

As there are less and less Holocaust survivors alive to tell their story, Schaecter said he will continue to share his testimony to the next generation of young people for as long as he can. He explained, “I look in their eyes and tell them three things: No. 1, they need to hear me; No. 2, they need to understand; and No. 3, the most important, I need them to be my mouthpiece when I am no longer here.”

Update: The original article incorrectly spelled Schaecter’s last name as “Shechter.” It has since been updated to include the correct spelling of his name.

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