Video by Megan Fischer
A string of numbers engraved on the arms of Holocaust survivors serves as a reminder of an event in history that killed millions. For all, they are tattoos of experiences they never asked for.
With many sitting on the floor in a filled ballroom in the Lory Student Center at Colorado State University, Holocaust survivor Albert Rosa, 91, shared his journey from his home in Greece to the United States years after the war ended. He was the only survivor from his family.
“When (the Nazis) took me in, I was 15 years old,” Rosa said. “I lost my education, but I got an education in survival.”
Photos by Abbie Parr and Megan Fischer
Rosa watched many of his siblings die while he was sent to various camps during the Holocaust.
“When my brother died, I promised him I would survive and avenge his death,” Rosa said.
Rosa recalled everything he went through while he was in the camps, both in Greece and after he was loaded into a train destined for Poland.
“It’s a miracle how I survived,” Rosa said. “I saw unbelievable things with my eyes.”
To escape, Rosa said he and a few other prisoners ran into the woods on a snowy evening. As they escaped, they heard dogs barking. If they stopped, they knew they would have been killed.
“I said, ‘Don’t run straight. Run zig-zag so they don’t get you,'” Rosa said.
Rosa recalled that those who escaped were worried the Germans were going to follow the footprints in the snow. His suggestion was to walk backwards. They then came upon a farmhouse — they were cold, and they were starving.
“We didn’t have the proper clothes,” Rosa said. “We dived into the manure to get warm.”
Their next goal was to find the American soldiers.
“Finally, we got the strength to go find the American army,” Rosa said. “It took us all day, but we found them.”
Rosa fought for Allied forces for the remainder of the war.
“I achieved several medals for fighting,” Rosa said. “I was fighting side-by-side with American soldiers for six months. I was not afraid to die.”
Even though World War II is creeping further into history, it is important to hear about events in history to prevent them from occurring again, said freshman biomedical sciences major Denise Negrete. She is the vice president of Students for Holocaust Awareness.
“Why do we care about any history?” Negrete asked. “Because it can repeat itself, I think it’s important to understand different cultures that aren’t your own and understand what they went through, because it could happen again, and it could happen to anyone.”
Negrete said hearing about what survivors from the Holocaust went through puts her problems into perspective and can inspire change.
“Hearing how they can still live after living through things like that makes me realize maybe my problems aren’t the end of the world,” Negrete said. “We can create huge changes if we want to and it starts at becoming aware.”
Rosa decided he wanted to come to the United States at the end of the war, but he had to apply for immigration status first. Eventually, he was able to come to the U.S. with his wife, who was from Austria. The two arrived in Denver, Colorado, in 1949.
Rosa said his wife died in his arms nine years ago.
“Never give up,” Rosa said. “If you have to die, die like a man, die fighting for your life.”
Collegian Reporter Megan Fischer can be reached at email@example.com or via Twitter @MegFischer04.