The Nazis were able to kill millions of Jews because the German people allowed a hateful minority to take control of the government, a survivor of the notorious Auschwitz death camp said Thursday.
"How can it happen - is it a lie? It cannot be a lie because it happened to us," Marc Berkowitz told about 1,000 Utah State University students and faculty members.The Czechoslovakian native now living in New York City said recent neo-Nazi groups in the United States, such as the so-called skinheads, are trying to downplay the Holocaust or claim it never happened.
"Unfortunately too many things are happening and you must make them not happen," said Berkowitz, who said he was the only member of his family to survive the Nazi extermination camp in southwestern Poland.
"What gives me strength, what gives me hope, what gives me courage is the fact that I spend very little time on hate. Most of the time I'll be rational and caring," he said.
Berkowitz said he was among "2,000 to 3,000 people" who arrived at Auschwitz on the same day. "Only 50 of all those people came out alive," he said.
Before his father died, he said, "he told me to wear a cross," apparently so the Nazi guards would think I was a Christian and not a Jew.
"I knew what my father meant, but I did not do it. I had to let my soul survive," he said.
Berkowitz said he believes he stayed alive because "I refused to surrender my humanity. I smiled then, I smile today and I will smile when I die."
"If you or someone comes to my grave and looks at my grave and looks at my stone, there will be a smile on that stone because it is basically what saved me."