DETROIT ARSENAL, Mich. — It is imperative in today’s world where we see the effects of anti-Semitism, ethnic and religious intolerance, racism, homophobia, and xenophobia that we remain vigilant to these hateful ideologies. These types of prejudice tear at the very fabric of society and threaten the civilized world, which is why it is important to remember past atrocities like the Holocaust.
Maj. Gen. Darren Werner, Commanding General Tank-automotive and Armaments Command, and the TACOM workforce development team hosted Lori Klisman Ellis, author of "4,456 Miles: A Survivor’s Search for Closure", and her mother Sophie Klisman for TACOM’s Holocaust Remembrance Day Observance on the Detroit Arsenal, Mich. Apr. 13.
“We have an opportunity to honor the people who died, contemplate as a civilized people the actions and attitudes that allowed the Holocaust to occur, and recognize and take action so that we never allow it to happen again,” said Werner.
Lori wrote her book in a way that allows readers to follow the journey of her mother Sophie starting at the age of 10 in Poland, where she was forced to work manufacturing weapons for the German war effort during World War II, to her arrival at Auschwitz at 14, after losing both her parents and her brother, and through her liberation by U.S. troops in 1945.
“Human rights and dignity were ignored so that a racial ideology could prevail,” said Lori. “Unfortunately, anti-Semitism is still on the rise.”
At the time of her liberation, Sophie remembered seeing American Soldiers jumping off their tanks and trucks.
“It was like angels from heaven,” Sophie said. “They came and opened the gates [to the concentration camp] and told us we were free.”
Many Soldiers paid a heavy toll for their effort in liberating those held in German concentration camps.
One of the Soldiers that was in the unit that liberated Sophie’s camp was Dr. Doug Harvey, who was able to join Lori and Sophie at the TACOM observance.
“As far as liberating the camps, I was only one of a cast of thousands,” said Harvey. “I was spared the worst part of seeing the camps, so I wasn’t haunted by the site, so maybe I was spared.
Lori described how at the age of 88, Sophie was able to return to Poland and hold a proper funeral for her mother, which she was robbed of doing at the time of her death.
“She should have had the dignity of having her family with her as she was laid into her final resting place,” said Lori.
The legacy of the Holocaust should be a constant reminder about what can happen if we let it. For this reason, it is important for people like Lori and Sophie to continue to share their story and speak the truth about the Holocaust.
“I feel it’s important that history not be forgotten, and [in certain instances] not be repeated,” said Lori.