By the time WWII ended in 1945, the Holocaust claimed the lives of more than 6 million Jews across German-occupied Europe. In addition to Jews, Nazi Germany also engaged in the systematic killing of 11 million others, including POWs and those from different ethnic, social, political, or religious backgrounds.
In 2005, the United Nations General Assembly voted to designate January 27 as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The date coincides with the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp, which occurred on January 27, 1945.
Through our partnerships with the National Archives and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, we’ve digitized more than three million records to help tell the story of the Holocaust. Here are just a few of the personal experiences from some of its victims:
Doriane Kurz was born in Austria to Jewish parents. Her father ran a thriving branch of the family’s multinational optical frames business. Following Kristallnacht, the Kurz family relocated to Holland, but soon Holland fell to the Nazis. Doriane’s father was captured and sent to Auschwitz concentration camp, where he later died. The Dutch underground helped smuggle 4-year-old Doriane and her 3-year-old brother Fred to Amsterdam. That city also fell under German occupation. Along with Doriane’s mother, the children ended up at Bergen-Belsen.
Each day at Bergen-Belsen, Doriane and her brother remained in the barracks while the adults were marched to work. She recalled watching out the window as carts, drawn by inmates, collected the dead bodies each morning. The rest of the day, they spoke about food, slicing their bread rations so they could last longer. She also recalled picking lice from their hair. In June 1945, Doriane was one of many inmates evacuated from the camps on a cattle train, then freed by Soviet troops. In 1946, having lost both their parents, 10-year-old Doriane and her 9-year-old brother Fred boarded a ship, unaccompanied, for their journey to the United States. They reunited with an uncle, and Doriane lived the rest of her life in New York. She was a successful businesswoman and operated a chain of stores before passing away in 2005.
Henoch Kornfeld was born in 1938 in Kolbuszowa, Poland. He was just one year old when German tanks rolled into town. Polish soldiers on horseback put up a fight but were no match for the far superior German weapons. After a short battle, dead horses littered the streets, and German police took control of the town. They terrorized residents and killed many Jews. In 1942, Henoch and his family were deported to the Rzeszow ghetto, then on to the Belzec extermination camp.
Belzec death camp was the site of mass murder between March-December 1942, and some 500,000 Jews and other Nazi targets died there. Belzec was one of six extermination camps in occupied Poland and the first to use gas chambers. On July 7, 1942, the Kornfeld family was gassed at Belzec. Henoch was just three years old.
Bernhardt Goebel was a 34-year-old Catholic priest living in Poland when the Gestapo arrested him in 1939 and sent him to Dachau concentration camp. While at Dachau, Goebel and a fellow priest, Bedrich Hoffman, stole records and secretly recorded Nazi atrocities against 1,700 imprisoned Catholic priests. Goebel himself endured beatings, torture, deprivation, and constant degradation. At great risk, the priests documented the suffering, determined to tell the world the truth of Dachau. On April 29, 1945, American troops liberated Dachau. Hoffman managed to smuggle the records to his native Czechoslovakia, and Goebel immigrated to America in 1951, settling in San Antonio, Texas.
Goebel spent more than forty years fighting to have the records he helped obtain translated to English. Finally, in 1995, 5,000 copies of And Who Will Kill You were published. Goebel continued to serve as a Catholic priest in Texas until his death in 2001 at age 96.
Our Holocaust Records Collections contain more than 600 individual stories from the Holocaust. They reveal heartbreaking loss, a resolve to live, and unimaginable suffering. The collection also contains entry registers to concentration camps, death records, captured German records, and more. See the Holocaust Collection on Fold3® today. You can also search additional Holocaust records for free on Ancestry®.