By Master Sgt. Johnathan Wiley, 1st TSC PAOApril 27, 2018
"We will never forget the atrocities, the horror, and the loss of millions of lives as a result of Nazi persecution."
That was the pledge Maj. Gen. Flem "Donnie" Walker Jr., commanding general, 1st Theater Sustainment Command, and the host of the Fort Knox 2018 Days of Remembrance commemoration, gave April 20 to those who gathered in the Sadowski Center to remember the more than 6 million men, women and children who lost their lives in the Holocaust of the 1930s and '40s.
The U.S. Congress established Days of Remembrance as an annual observance to ensure the Holocaust is not forgotten. This year's theme is, "Learning from the Holocaust: Legacy of Perseverance."
Wanda Wolosky, the keynote speaker for the event, truly embodies a legacy of perseverance, Walker said.
As a Jewish woman born in Warsaw, Poland, Wolosky described the horrors she witnessed while living with her mother as a small child during the Nazi occupation of her birth country during World War II.
When Jewish families walked the streets, "[Nazi soldiers] would tell the woman to undress, and they would check her body parts," Wolosky said. "They would tell the husband to run or they would beat him."
Wolosky said people were beaten and tortured daily.
"They told one guy to go clean a latrine. When he asked for rags, he was beaten and told to clean it with his clothes," she said. "At the end of the day, he put the dirty clothes on and ran home."
Wolosky said another person was told to carry a block of ice for a whole day, and at the end of the day, his hands were so frostbitten they had to be amputated.
"It wasn't safe on the streets, and it wasn't safe at home because any German could enter at any time and take whatever he wanted," she said. "If you objected, everyone in the house -- old people, women and children -- were tortured or killed."
The Germans established a curfew and anyone caught on the street after curfew was shot, she said: "If there was nobody, they would go into houses and pull people and shoot them."
Eventually, the Germans forced Wolosky and the other Jews in the city to relocate to a small area close to the railroad tracks where they lived in very close, cramped quarters. The area came to be known as the Warsaw Ghetto.
"In an area [suitable] for a quarter million people, there was half a million people, one on top of the other," she said.
Soldiers forced the Jews to build a 10-foot wall around the area with 30 gates, each guarded by a German soldier, a Polish policeman, and a Jewish policeman. No one was allowed to leave.
"Starvation started in the ghetto right away," Wolosky said.
Jews were allotted 184 calories a day.
"A candy bar has more than that," she explained.
Wolosky said it was common to walk between people, many of whom were children, who lay dying in
"You got used to it. You knew that tomorrow it would be you," she said.
To survive, people resorted to smuggling food.
Many of the smugglers were women and children who would wait by the gates for one of the few kind-hearted Germans who permitted them to leave, Wolosky said.
She recalled one time when a family friend told her mother that he would take her out of the ghetto for a night and return the next day with her and food. He wrapped parts of a slaughtered pig around her body so she wouldn't be carrying anything when she passed through the ghetto's gate. Anyone caught smuggling would be shot on the spot, Wolosky explained.
"We came to the gate and the German asked for papers," she said. "He put his hand on my shoulder and asked, 'Are you cold, my child?' I was sweating with every pore in my body because if his hand would have gone a little bit lower, he would have felt what I was carrying and it would not have been 'my child.'"
Wolosky said eventually she and her mother escaped the ghetto and went into hiding. They were looking for places to stay when they were spotted by a Polish woman whom her mother once gave a loaf of bread after she received two loaves of bread from a German in a food line.
To return the favor, the woman took them to a small building at a cemetery and hid them. Every morning, the woman would bring Wolosky and her mother food.
"You see, sometimes a loaf of bread can save your life," Wolosky said.
Wolosky and her mother remained in hiding until Russians liberated Warsaw. In 1950, they became some of the first Polish Jews to immigrate to the newly formed state of Israel.
At the age of 17, Wolosky volunteered to join the Israeli Army and was attached to a police K-9 unit serving during the 1956 Suez Canal War. In 1957, she moved to the United States where she met and married Gerry Wolosky.
Today, she lives in Green Valley, Arizona, and has two children and three grandchildren.
After Wolosky shared her story, the observance continued with a candle lighting ceremony, during which six candles were lit in memory of Holocaust victims.