“Sadness still overshadows my life,” Olga Horak told the audience during her moving keynote address at the Sydney Jewish Museum’s annual International Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony.
Horak shared her story, beginning with the deportation of her sister to Auschwitz in early 1942 – who she never saw again – before she and her parents also found themselves “pushed into these filthy wagons” and sent to Auschwitz.
“Auschwitz-Birkenau was hell on earth,” Horak said.
“Groups of men were immediately separated from women. This is when I saw my father for the last time.”
Horak and her mother survived until liberation, but tragically her mother “lost her fight to live only minutes after having been registered as a survivor”.
“To deal with the past is not easy,” Horak said. “I was the sole survivor of my immediate family.
“To document the Shoah should not be neglected. Survivors of the Holocaust are now a decimated group – we are the living messengers of the dead.
“We remember those who perished and were murdered in gas chambers, who perished of starvation and those who were tortured.
“We remember them to attest to the fact that millions of innocent Jewish people’s lives were tragically lost, thrown into pits with no names, with no evidence that they ever lived.
“I am alive. I look at the beautiful blue sky and I enjoy the sunshine in peaceful surroundings. This is my personal triumph at my old age.”
International Holocaust Remembrance Day commemorates the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau on January 27, 1945.
Co-chair of Youth HEAR Kara Borecki spoke of the responsibility of future generations to continue to commemorate the Shoah.
“My grandfather, Oscar Borecki, was a Holocaust survivor,” Borecki said.
“He was just 11 years old when the Germans occupied his family’s small Polish town. They were ordered to move into a prison-like ghetto.”
He later escaped into the nearby forest, where he pretended to be a non-Jewish orphan and worked for food and shelter.
Oscar never saw his parents or brother again.
“My grandfather survived the Shoah, moved to Australia and created a beautiful and large family,” Borecki said.
“My family exists because of his survival and I feel it is my duty to commemorate those who were lost and do whatever I can to ensure such atrocities never happen again.
“I know it is my responsibility and the responsibility of my generation to carry the torch of commemorating, educating and remembering the Shoah into the future.”