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Holocaust survivor Ruth Minsky-Sender recalls close calls with death. But is still searching for her brothers.

Holocaust survivor Ruth Minsky-Sender speaks to a packed room in the Southampton Building. Photo by Mike Gaisser (April 25, 2018)

Holocaust survivor Ruth Minsky-Sender came to the Ammerman campus on April 25 — her 92nd birthday — to share her experiences during the Nazi occupation of Poland.

She was brought to Auschwitz as a teenager and avoided the lethal gas chambers by being a “fortunate one.” She was sent into a shower instead.

But she didn’t realize she was fortunate at that moment. “When we came into the barracks, there was a woman running around screaming, ‘Your families are being murdered’,” she told a packed room in the Southampton Building.

Minsky-Sender said she regrets not believing the woman at the time.

She said her group could “smell and see the stench and the smoke and everything” happening around it.

Minsky-Sender also had two other close calls with death at the labor camps in Mittelsteine and Grafenort, as she explains in the audio above.

Her mother, Nacha, and younger brother, Laibele, weren’t so lucky. Minsky-Sender would later find out her mother died after being taken away during a Nazi raid in the Lodz ghetto.

Laibele died of tuberculosis in the ghetto. Minsky-Sender doesn’t know what happened to two of her other brothers, Motele and Moishele, after arriving at Auschwitz because men and women were separated.

“I still search for them,” she says. “I get different organizations all over the world trying to reunite families, no matter how they were separated … they tell me to hold on to hope. Maybe we’ll still find them.”

She was reunited with her older siblings, Chanele, Yankele and Mala in Germany after the liberation. They had fled to Russia before the Nazi invasion of Poland.

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Minsky-Sender has written three memoirs about her experience: The Cage, To Life and Holocaust Lady.

Minsky-Sender stressed that historians and teachers must teach the Holocaust accurately and not sugar-coat anything.

“No matter how much it hurts, you can’t twist history. You have to tell what it was and how it was,” she said.

As an example, she says that people didn’t know they were going to Auschwitz, as they were told they were simply being “resettled.” But a tour guide at the Museum of Jewish Heritage implied that they knew where they were going.

“If you do research, make sure that you have complete research,” Minsky-Sender said. “I hope that people who teach [the] Holocaust prepare themselves for the pain and tell the pain, and not just twist around which makes it smoother.”

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