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Wednesday, October 26, 2016
New York: Jewish and Catholic communities remember Holocaust
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l-r John Gmerek, Kosciuszko Foundation; Rabbi Birnbaum; Michael Preisler; Frank Milewski, Chet Szarejko, Polish American Congress
Michael Preisler, a Polish Catholic who spent more than three years as a prisoner in Auschwitz, joined the congregation of the Jewish Center of Kew Gardens Hills in Queens, NY to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the Auschwitz death camp's liberation on 27 January, 1945.

Simultaneous observances took place throughout the world, with the main event held at the actual site of the former camp in Oswiecim, Poland.  Auschwitz survivors and official  government representatives from Israel and Poland were the main participants there.      

Rabbi Moses A Birnbaum, Spiritual Leader of the Jewish Center of Kew Gardens Hills invited the Polish American Congress and  Mr Preisler to join his congregation in remembering the tragedy both peoples shared.  Jews were the largest group murdered in Auschwitz.  Poles were the second largest.

Mr Preisler was a member of the Polish Underground Resistance when the Gestapo arrested him and sent him to Auschwitz in 1941. He was able to stay alive there to the very end until the Russian Army began closing in. 

He is also a survivor of the infamous "Death March" out of Auschwitz when the Germans began to evacuate the prisoners a week before the Russians got there.  It took place in the middle of a brutally cold  European winter in sub-zero temperatures.

Preisler recalls that cruel event as the 'Days of the Red Snow.' The snow the prisoners marched through began changing to red from the blood of any prisoner who faltered or fell from pain or exhaustion and was shot dead on the spot by the German guards. 

Preisler said he was grateful to Rabbi Birnbaum for reaching out to New York's Polish American community to have Jews and Poles remember together. 

Rabbi Birnbaum has been a driving force behind the efforts to  promote a better understanding between the two groups.

Source: Polish American Congress

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Tags: Chet Szarejko, John Gmerek, Kosciuszko Foundation; Rabbi Birnbaum; Michael Preisler; Frank Milewski, Polish American Congress

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