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tv   Never Again The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Tour with Wolf...  CNN  August 26, 2022 8:00pm-9:00pm PDT

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"never again," that's the plea of the people who survived one of the darkest moments in history, the holocaust. during world war ii, german nazis murdered countless people, including six million jewish men, women and children. it's easy to think of the holocaust as a relic of the past, but the few remaining
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survivors of the holocaust still live with the horrors. the holocaust remains one of the greatest crimes against humanity. in europe, nazis set out to kill as many jews as possible. they murdered all four of my grandparents and forced my parents into slave labor and external e external nation camps. ignorance fueled them. eight decades later, it's horrifying to see a rise in anti-semitism and holocaust denial around the world and here in this country. we want to take you on a tour of the united states holocaust memorial museum here in washington, d.c. more than 45 million people have visited this museum since it opened back in 1993. this institution serves as a
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reminder of what happens when society doesn't stand up to hate . would you please tell me your full name? >> david blitzer. >> that's my dad, david blitzer. he survived the holocaust, met my mother. he recorded his personal, very powerful survival story for future generations. >> i'm from the name of the city of always wits before the war. my wife didn't believe she would
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be able to have children after the concentration camp, but ten years after we were married, she was. >> like so many survivors, he knew he had to speak for the millions that couldn't. and now i'm carrying on his legacy. i'm going to take you through the history of the holocaust and the u.s. holocaust memorial museum with help from survivors like my father. their voices will bear witness to future generations. our tour guide is sara bloomfield, the director of the u.s. holocaust memorial museum. sara, tell us about this elevator. >> this elevator brings the american public into the holocaust through the eyes of the ordinary american gi who is fighting to defeat navys in
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world war ii. it is those american soldiers who are the first eye witnesses to the holocaust. and you hear this g.i. coming across these atrocities and asking, how could human beings do this to one another? >> they patrol the leader, call him by radio and say we have come across something. we're not sure what it is. it is a big prison of some kind. and there are people running all over. sick, dying, starved people. you can't imagine it. things like that don't happen.
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>> sara, tell us about this photo. >> here you see american soldiers who have been obviously courageously fighting their way across europe to liberate it from navyism, and they stumble on concentration camps like this in germany. they have heard about those crimes but now they are seeing them for the first times. they're absolutely stunned. they're witnesses. they're standing around trying to absorb the inhumanity of it all. we want our visitors to also be witnesses to this humanity. >> when people come to this museum, they see a quote from dwight eisenhower right at the beginning. >> well, general eisenhower who is leading the effort to defeat n naziism has been reading for years but he feels they can't all be true.
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so he says once they're occupying these camps, i want to go see one for myself because i can't believe what i've been reading. and it is even far worse than those reports he read. and he predicts at some point people will not believe the truth of these crimes and indeed we witness holocaust denial today. >> when people come to this museum, they start the tour on this floor. >> right. they start here through america's first direct encounter with the history, which is the witnessing of the crimes. and through our soldiers, these young men from across the country fighting to defeat naziism and understanding that they're fighting something much greater than a war, this is really about human dignity and human freedom as you see in this
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the nazi power rose to prominence in the 1920s. adolph hitler became its leader in 1921. the party was small with little
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political power. but by 1932, the nazis had become the largest political party in the german parliament. less than a year later, germany's democratically elected president appointed hitler chancellor and he appointed on his quest for so-called racial purity, looking to conquer europe in the name of the arian race. the nazis wanted to rid groups they deemed inferior and blamed for germany's problems. the jews for the focus of the push for purity. but the nazi's hateful ideology extended to people with disabilities, pols, russians, communists, homosexuals. the list goes on and on. >> adolph hitler.
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[ speaking non-english ] >> sara, what did the west do to try to stop the rise of hitler? >> the west did very little, actually. everything that was nazi germany was widely reported in the american papers. but it is important to understand the west had just came out of world war i. they didn't want to fight another war. then there was a great depression. they were battling economic challenges, so wishful thinking, they thought this might go away. of course they were tragically very wrong. >> hitler often said he was the party and the party was him. and his power became absolute. >> right. he comes to power through a democratic process, the conservative elites make a deal with him. there is a lot of things about
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him they think are too extreme, but they think they're going to control him. but he's able to destroy german democracy very quickly after he comes into power and creates a dictatorship. >> it is so, so scary when you think about his rise to power through democratic means. and then through a years it's absolute and he's slaughtering all these people and everyone in germany was going along with it. it is heart-breaking to think about it, the way he managed to do that. >> with a lot of collaborators. >> i never saw and i never heard of a german who regret that hitler is out of power. >> my family lived in poland when germany invaded in 1939. beginning of the european phase of world war ii. the nazis began executions
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almost immediately. from polish political leaders to entire jewish families. they erased signs of jewish life and culture. the genesis of a johnson. they even erased the names of polish jews cities and, as my father said, used them for their own terrible purposes. >> it is not the real name. actually the name was a very nice, beautiful little city with a lot of synagogues, ha saidic people, intellectual people and everything that you can think of. >> what is this all about? because we see the names of all these towns. >> on this glass bridge you see etched the names of just a few of the thousand jewish communiques across europe that
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were destroyed. these were communities where jews lived for hundreds of years and they're basically obliterated overnight. >> i saw the name of my mother's hometown in poland. i was thinking of my mom, how he was such a strong woman. during the war she survived and she helped her two brothers and younger sister survived. when they came to buffalo, new york, she built a home. >> survival was really a remarkable story, especially your mom in poland where over 90% of the jews were killed. so it is extraordinary she managed to survive this. >> there were three million jews in poland before the war and not that many survived. i was walking through this museum and i see pictures of the corp.s, the bodies. i think of my grandparents who were slaughters at the death camps. it is just heart-breaking.
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when people walk down this bridge over here, what do you want them to think? >> well, we're trying to give people a sense of the scope of the holocaust. the numbers are so large, so we're talking thousands of communities, and we're talking millions of people. the nazis set out to murder every jew in europe. they had lists estimating there were 11 million from ireland to turkey. they were going to kill them all. they eventually killed six million. >> that is just heart-breaking to think about those numbers. but to think that each one of those numbers is a man, woman or a child brutally slaughtered. for what? >> exactly. these are not statistics. these are individual lives, just like your parents and of course your grandparents. this is about families and people with a whole future before them.
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>> this was just one town. >> just one town. here you see the pre-war lives of one jewish community. grandparents, children, friends, neighbors. just people leading their normal lives. this community was destroyed in two days in september 1941 by mobile killing units. you know, you look at these faces and you just -- it reminds you that the unthinkable is possible. hundreds of years completely obliterated in just two days. >> and these pictures tell the story not just of this town but you can expand it throughout europe. these little towns where the jews lived for hundreds and hundreds of years. >> this very sad story played out in thousands of jewish communities across german-dominated europe.
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>> i see these little kids. what did they do to deserve death? >> it shows the true magnitude of the loss, which is the children are about the future. and that was the nazi goal, to destroy any jewish future.
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before hitler's final solution to get rid of the jews was implemented, the nazis established ghettos. you can see it right here. the museum lines this exhibit with cobblestones actually taken from the warsaw ghetto. more than 400,000 jews lived in one square mile controlled and confined. but many jews tried to resist. this shattered glass serves as a memory of the shattered lives. as the nazis put their final
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external nation plan into motion. >> they do it through a system of deporting jews across europe to stationary killing centers located in occupied poland. so dozens of people, anywhere from 1 to 3 days, no food, no water, no sanitation. many, of course, died along the way. but if they lived, their destination would be a killing center where most of them were gassed upon arrival. some had heard rumors. but, again, remember, it was just unbelievable. so what they understood and what they were told by the germans was they were being deported to the east for hard labor. people always want to think the best, especially in a horrible situation like this. so they wanted to believe that there might be something at the end. they couldn't imagine gas cha chambers. >> when the people got off these
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rail cars, they were separated. >> the men were separated from the women and children. men were often put to work. this is forced labor. the idea would be they would just be worked to death. and the women and the children would be gassed immediately. >> they would be take ton the gas chambers. >> right. and someone is making decisions like that as people get off the trains. >> the biggest problem for me is that it does not bombard the railroads leading. you were happy. we couldn't understand why don't they bombard every day thousands of people were burned in gas camps. if those rails would have bombarded, they couldn't have done it so perfectly.
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that's all i can tell you. >> work will make you free. that's the sign. the first thing you see when you arrive at always witch (, and i have been there. >> yes. you can see this today at the camp, which is a historical site. but for the victims, they would have seen this as well, gotten off these trains with this horrible deportation ride. and then this false promise that you are here to work. of course, that was totally a deception. but this was intended to be maybe somewhat reassuring, you are here to work. >> if you saw that sign, it means freedom for labor. so don't make any mistakes. nobody needs your labor here.
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we're here at the section of auschwitz now. and you see a barracks from auschwitz, the most infamous killing center. most people upon arrival in auschwitz would be gassed to death. but those who weren't gassed would be living in barracks like this under terrible, terrible conditions. lots of overcrowding. they're in these bunk beds where they're all squished together. there is no mattresses. they're lucky if they have a little straw. they're being worked to death. of course, most of them are going to be killed. and this is industrialized killing. that's what happens at auschwitz. >> because more than a million jews were killed at auschwitz. >> thousands of pols also killed at auschwitz. at its height, it's gassing up to 6,000 people a day. sometimes the jews, we have
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pictures of them are seated in parts of the camp are waiting. think they they're waiting to be processed. of course we know they're waiting to be gassed. >> there were other horrible things going on at auschwitz as well. >> yes. auschwitz really is a complex of dozens of camps. it is a killing center. it is a concentration camps. there are forced labor. so this is a whole system of nazi ideology where they're going to destroy their racial enemies and work their other enemies to death. >> and i understand you discovered not far from auschwitz some sort of nazi ss vacation location. >> yes. they built a retreat about nine miles from auschwitz for the ss to go like on their days off. so they would be here at auschwitz gassing up to 6,000 a day and then take a break, men and women because there were women working in telecommunications in these camps.
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and they would do things like sing-alongs and blueberry pickings at this retreat center. >> if you visit the location today, they recreated, they have allowed to remain many, many of the worst aspects of that death camp. >> it's when you see it you appreciate the scale of auschwitz, the sheer size of it. again, when you think about the industrial nature, it is like an assembly line. think they got it down to about a penny a body in german funds at the time. it is really extraordinarily efficient, and that's what they were proud of. >> is there a lesson you want to share? >> other than the sheer evil and inhumanity of it, it is a reminder that technological progress is not moral process. >> and i saw the end is coming because when i arrived, i saw outside legs, dozens upon dozens
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upon dozens of dead bodies laid out. and i thought, i got to get out from over here. >> sara, tell us about this exhibit over here. these are shoes, old shoes. >> this is one of our most iconic exhibits. if you visit these killing centers today, you see thousands upon thousands of shoes like this. the shoes of the victims. the germans took their shoes because they were going to reuse them and recycle them, if you will. but, of course, the victims would be killed. but this is what is left of those lives. >> these shoes are 80, 90 years old and they're here, the only surviving elements with all those people who were external nated. >> this is the trace of the people before they were gassed.
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>> i think of those shoes. you know? my four grandparents, we didn't have anything. nothing was found. they said just horrendous, horrendous situation. it's so important, so timely now to remind people who don't know anything about it. >> i think one of the most lessons of the holocaust is that the world always changes, but human nature never does. >> this is a reminder of that. >> yes, a harsh reminder. but we need to be reminded of it anew, every generation. in three days, they sent us out of auschwitz. they made us march to the train station. they said i was to work there.
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i don't know. all on the road. we saw little babies left behind. we saw little babies sitting and crying, all peoples crying. some were shot right there on the march. >> barbed wire fences marked the end of our lives. and in front of us was the crematory and the chimneys and the smoke and the stench of human flesh. my father was gassed there. we were like frightened animals in a cage. this is what we were, caged animals. >> i didn't feel like living anymore when we went in the concentration camp and the allies were bombing. i prayed to god that the bomb should come and get us because we were so sick of living.
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my name is steven. i'm 90 years old, and i survived the holocaust. >> steven was just a boy during the holocaust, living in what was then yugoslavia. nazis rounded up his family and shipped them to auschwitz in a cramped train. >> we didn't know where we were going. we didn't know where we had arrived when the doors were stand open. and we were greeted with a noise and the stench, particularly a stench which even today is in my nostrils. stench from the smoke of the
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crematorium, stench from the humans around you, unwashed, unchanged clothes, excrement and urine sticking to your clothes and your body because you were out allowed from the train once a day. that was the overwhelming scent. the only image i can compare it to is the stockyards in chicago and kansas city where thousands of animals were stockpiled until further disposition. in auschwitz, thousands and thousands of recently arrived enslaved people were stockpiled in these compounds. three tiers of clots. we fought ourselves to the top bunk so we couldn't get the shower of urine from people above us. when our strength was no longer enough to fight our way, we were
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together in a lower bunk. and so we were all dying, simply dying. walking close, no longer eating, no longer recognizing their surrounding, walking around aimlessly, decrepid to the point where some were carted away in the night directly to the crematorium. this is how my mother died. i was there five months. one feeding a day. you didn't have any utensils. cups, you had to wait until somebody finished and you took it and you sat in the dirt and waited to die. i deliberately speak about
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events rather than feelings. i worked hard in the camp and afterwards to suppress feelings because it was easier to -- to survive that way. there are things i regret that i couldn't do. i have the guilty feeling that many survivors have that why i, why not my mother. why my father had to die so painfully. but maybe it's strange. maybe it's a selfish thing to say but occasionally i feel a certain pride for not just for having survived but for having been instrumental in other people surviving. >> it's impossible to hear a story like that 80 years later and not feel angry that the world looked the other way.
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>> during the war, did you think that the allies knew what the germans were doing to the jews? do you think they knew? >> no, no. but maybe they were thinking that we exaggerated. i had no question in my mind that they knew.
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this is a solemn but gorous hour. the forces of germany have surrendered to the united nation. the flags of freedom fly all over europe. >> allied victory in world war ii of course came too late for many people. it had been going on for years before the u.s. officially entered the war. what did americans know? and when did they know it? >> adolph hitler was appointed chancellor of germany in 1933. now, the great depression had
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been going on for four years at this point. in the united states, about 25% of the workforce was still unemployed. there is quite a lot of information in the united states about the new nazi party and as it's coming to power in germany and adolph hitler. their headline news across the country of jews being kicked out of their jobs, of books being burned, kids being kicked out of public school. that is the new deal. there is a huge public outcry about what people are reading is happening in germany. but the roosevelt administration decides we have enough problems domestically. we're not going to get involved in anything overseas. so in may 1940, even after nazis invaded france, belgium, 93% of americans still think we should not get proactively involved in
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any sort of war. many americans think world war i had been a mistake, that we had gone overseas, thousands of boys died and nothing had happened. the united states government learns about the crimes that we now call the holocaust today in drips. it takes a long time to figure out what is happening. it is a failure of imagination. it is a failure of belief. they didn't think that a country that was at war would be expending resources towards trying to kill innocent people. >> but with u.s. officials finally to understand what is happening, they spoke out. >> the state department working with the british and working with the soviets and the nations in exile in london said there is nothing we can do about this, but we kind of need people to stop asking. and, so, we will put out a statement and we will put out this statement saying we condemn the cold-blooded external nation. we say it's happening.
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we condemn it. they don't promise any sort of rescue. they promise post-war punishment. >> december 17, 1942, a statement by the allies. the above-mentioned governments and the french national committee condemn in the strongest possible determines this policy of cold-blooded external nation. they declare that such events can only strengthen the resolve of our freedom loving people in overthrowing the hitler journey. they reaffirm their solemn resolution to ensure that those responsible for those crimes shall not escape retribution and to press on with the necessary practical measures to this end. >> americans were pulled in april 1938. and a majority of americans thought the persecution of jews was at least partially their own
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thought. that they controlled the media. they controlled banks. and that's why germany had to do this to them. of course we know that's just anti-semitism. >> one example was the 1939 case of the german ship the st. louis. nearly all of the 937 passengers onboard were jewish refugees. but cuba refused to allow the ship to land. even with the lights of miami in their sights, the refugees were unable to disembark in florida. the st. louis was forced to return to europe. more than 250 who had been onboard the ship were killed in the holocaust. >> i think there is a tendency to look back on the 1930s and '40s and say i don't understand why we didn't do more. it is so clear these people needed to get out and we should have been the country to welcome them. then we look in our newspapers and look in magazines and watch tv today and say, oh, it is so complicated now.
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i think the more you learn about american responses to the holocaust and the more you learn about this time period, you realize what was really complicated then and the people opposing immigration then had very similar arguments as you hear today. i think it is incredibly important to educate young people about the holocaust. young people are the future leaders of this country. they are the ones who need to carry this lesson forward. holocaust survivors talk all the time about how they were witnesses for their families and how learning their stories allows us to bear witness for future generations, too. >> for the dead and the living, we must bear witness. i honestly wasn't the most knowledgeable about holocaust history. we knew basic things like what concentration camps were or a lot of jewish people died. and i hate to use the word "a lot" because it is so simple and i think it takes away from the
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people who really did die and it takes away from how many people died which i don't think i was able to wrap my head around. i did not know the full extent of the history. and i think that really bothered me. >> sadly, there is a worry that the horrible details of the holocaust could be forgotten. or in the case of younger generations never even learned. less than half of u.s. states require holocaust education in secondary schools. >> there is a lot that we don't want to talk about because it's a really dark side of our history. kids my age need to learn about this history whether it makes them feel uncomfortable or not. >> when i speak to school-aged children, i warn them that any form of prejudice, discrimination can be whipped up by people intent on whipping it
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up to mass hatred, resulting eventually in genocides and the holocaust. that sense of hatred, specifically jew hatred, i don't use it intellectual term anti-semitism. most people who hate jews hate jews and don't know what the word is. they just got hate. that unfortunately arises in every country, every civilization. there is a distinction between us and them. the name of us is different. the name of them is different. but the "us" always fear "them" driving them out. jews will not replace us or start to put them back in the place where they should be as
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subhumans, as unworthy of any human dignity and eventually to external nation. >> half of my family is from afghanistan, and the other half is from the philippines, so i don't have that personal connection necessarily for a lot of kids like me, it can be easy to question why does this matter? it doesn't relate to me. it's not my history to tell. but when we sit here and think about what affects me and living in your own world and only thinking about yourself, it doesn't create a world that i would want to live in. you speak out because some people don't have that option. >> as a survivor, i have an obligation to speak on behalf of those who didn't survive, so i
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see myself as a messenger in which i hope some people recognize themselves and wonder what they could have done in the same situation. people have largely forgotten the holocaust. yes, i worry that that's going to further deteriorate and as pass the threshold of people's memory. ♪ ♪ "shake your thang" by salt n pepa joe biden and democrats in congress just passed the inflation reduction act to lower our energy bills.
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i said to him, how do you know? he said when you open the door, he have talking french. now, what do we do now? what do we do now? >> how would you like future generations to remember the holocaust? >> the future generations to remember the holocaust, everything should be written what people are telling you, the truth.
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>> my dad recorded that video back in 1995. but even back then, he knew that this history would be challenged. he knew how important it was to pass down his story. my dad used to always tell me every time he would see me on tv it was his best revenge against hitler. as the child of holocaust survivors, i see myself as a living link to this history, a conduit for my parents who have now both passed on. may they rest in peace. and as we say in hebrew, may their memories be a blessing. and as long as i'm here, their legacy lives on. but it can't just be me and those like me. this poem at the end of the museum tour reminds us of that. first they came for the socialists, and i did not speak out because i was not a socialist. then they came for the trade unionists, and i did not speak out because i was not a trade
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unionist. then they came for the jews, and i did not speak out because i was not a jew. then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me. >> for the dead and the living, we must bear witness. that has been my motto. i'm not speaking about myself. i'm speaking as a representative of my parents, my grandmother, my cousins who have died. my schoolmates, they are unable to speak. it is my responsibility to speak on their behalf. the tour begins with a cramped elevator ride into the dark corridors of the nazi's rise to power. but it ends with a striking room, the hall of remembrance, a place for people to sit, to
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reflect and to remember, to remember the witnesses, to remember their stories, remember them like i remember my mom and my dad every single day. we must never forget so this never happens again. >> i ask this question to a lot of people. do you always think of yourself as a survivor? >> i'm still a builder. i have money. i have a wonderful wife. but i have no peace of


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