Holocaust Survivor Walter Kase

April 30, 2009

On Thursday, April 30, 2009 Walter Kase, a Holocaust survivor spoke at Texas A&M University at Galveston. His visit was a part of the Holocaust Seminar given each year by Professor David Lawhon.

Kase began his story by telling the audience that there are things that we do not choose: our race, our religion and our nationality. He said to be persecuted for these reasons are “sinful…ungodly.”

“My misfortune is that I was born to a very kind, very loving Jewish family.”

Kase told the audience that the war for him began on September 1, 1939. Six days later his family was given 15 minutes to pack their belongings, all while his father was being held at gun-point. They were being moved into the ghetto.

“With the ghetto came the process of dehumanization,” said Kase. Kase, along with his mother, father, younger sister and an adopted cousin shared an apartment with 13 strangers. “If you were sick, they shot you.” He said that anyone under the age of 12 or over the age of 60 wasn’t issued a food ration in the ghetto. His younger sister was never granted a food ration while living in the ghetto.

Kase was them moved to the Pionki labor camp, then to Auschwitz, Sosnowiwx and finally Mauthausen and its sub-camps. In May of 1945 he was liberated by the 71st Infantry Division on the U.S. Army, but before then, he would endure atrocities that many of us dare not imagine.

The day that his sister was killed was also the day that his father saved Kase’s life. Standing there, being sorted like cattle for slaughter, Kase’s father had him stand on bricks to appear taller. His younger sister, Rysia was hiding under his mother’s jacket. When discovered, Rysia was torn from his mother’s arms and sent to the left-side of the line. “There in front of God and everyone, they killed all the children and the elderly.” He was then loaded into a boxcar for a four-day ride to Dachau.
“Every single person just lost someone they loved.”

From the boxcar, they exited at the gates of Auschwitz where women were sent to the right and men to the left. Almost seventy years later, Kase said that he still regrets not having told his mother enough that he loved her. He would be reunited with her after the liberation. As they entered the camp, his father asked a prisoner what sort of place it was. “Auschwitz is a factory for the annihilation of men, women and children,” was the prisoner’s response.

After Auschwitz, Kase was eventually taken to Mauthausen. He said the dead bodies inside the gates were stacked, like lumber in a lumber yard. On the day of his liberation, he walked out of the camp along with several other boys who helped to drag his father’s near-lifeless body. Just outside the camp they discovered a warehouse with food and care packages from floor to ceiling, while just a few yards away they had watched their fellow prisoners starve to death day after day. They hiked until they found a road and there they waited for the Americans to arrive, so that they could take the Americans back to the camp to help the others. Kase said “[it was] just our little band of skeletons laying on the side of the road.”

 “[There are] Twenty-seven places in the world where people are killing each other over race, religion and nationality,” said Kase adding that his father would be so disappointed because “we haven’t learned anything.” He issued an action call to the students sitting in the audience to help educate and change the world. “[Change] isn’t happening fast enough for men. You must make it happen faster. When you see injustice happening, stand up!”

Kase was joined by fellow survivor Naomi Warren. Warren was sent to Auschtwitz-Biekenau at the beginning of 1942, along with her husband. She said that the trip to Auschwitz lasted a lifetime because you never knew how long you were in the cattle cars. “If someone [told] me today that I was there and I survived, I would say ‘impossible!’” said Warren. She forced herself to work every day in the camp because it encouraged her will to live, and without that will, she would die. Trough everything that the Holocaust took from her, she pointed out that there are some things that no one can steal. “Whatever you learn, it stays in your head. Nothing that you have learned, (sic) it will never leave you.”

At the end when asked how he reacts to those who say the Holocaust never happened, Kase’s response was disturbingly unarguable. “As long as I live, it happened because I saw it happen.”