Over 70 years ago, six million people were murdered for the vision of a white ethnostate in Nazi Germany. Irving Roth was one of the few Jewish peoples to have survived the massacre.
He now lives to share his experiences to the next generation so they might avoid repeating the same mistakes his generation made that lead to the deadliest genocide in history.
“We speak of six million,” Roth expressed. “It seems like a huge number. But let us remember – these were six million individual human beings. It seems like a long time ago. For me, it was like yesterday.”
Born in 1929 in Czechoslovakia, Roth grew up during a time when Jews were persecuted in Nazi Germany for merely bearing the Star of David. Roth was four years old when Adolf Hitler was appointed as Chancellor of Germany in 1933.
Holocaust Resource Center historian Donna Rosenblum stated Hitler came to power by sporting a platform of white supremacy and anti-Semitism.
“At the end of World War I, Hitler talks about Jews as a problem,” Rosenblum expressed. “He blames them, but he focuses initially on winning the German people over with their loyalty. He’s going to make Germany ‘a great place.’”
Roth spoke to the public about his experiences surviving the Holocaust Tuesday at the Southwestern Assemblies of God University chapel. The event was hosted by the university’s Christians United for Israel student organization, which is part of a pro-Israel association that has over 5.3 million members nationally, according to the Jewish News Syndicate.
“He’s a Holocaust survivor,” CUFI president Sierra Sabido remarked. “Not only that, he spends his time speaking to people to not let history repeat itself – the things that have happened, to not let happen again.”
Roth recalled the first time he entered a concentration camp: It was May of 1944 when he was crammed into a boxcar filled with several other people, heading to a destination to which he knew not where.
Roth stated he was stuck in that boxcar for three days and three nights with only a small bag, underwear and some food in his possession.
“There was no place to sit,” he recalled. “100 people were in this box that had no windows. No air conditioning. No bath. No running water.”
But on the fourth day, the doors slid open to a startling sight.
“All I saw were guards yelling ‘Get out! Get out quickly! Take nothing with you!’” he recalled. “Out of this train came 4,000 human beings. Men. Women. Children. And Irving Roth.”
Roth said the guards were dividing people into two lines as they approached the camp. Ahead of the crowds, Roth could see buildings with smoke billowing from the chimneys.
“My cousin asks me, ‘What do you think those factories are producing?’” he recalled. “For reasons, I can’t quite explain, I turned to him and I said ‘They’re going to make soap out of us. But I’ll refuse to bubble!”
Roth said he didn’t realize how close he was to the real truth until much later.
Roth said the guards started separating the crowd into the two lines. Ninety percent went into the line on the right, while the rest went into the line on the left.
“I was on the left with my brother,” Roth recalled. “My grandfather, my grandmother, my aunt, my 10-year-old cousin, they were on the right – marching along to those buildings with the flames and chimneys.”
Roth said he never saw his grandparents or his aunt and cousin ever again.
He wouldn’t learn until much later that he was in Auschwitz – the deadliest concentration camp during the Holocaust with over one million murders.
“Over a period of 2.5 years, 1.2 million human beings were murdered – their bodies incinerated,” Roth expressed. “Not by some ancient Reich – in the 20th century, by the most educated, intellectual, artistic people of the world. Ordinary people - God-fearing, church-going, tax-paying decent people. How could this happen?”
Although the Holocaust represented one of the worst parts of human history, Roth expressed that it didn’t originate out of nothing. He explained that it grew from years of normalizing racial hate speech towards the Jewish people – first in propaganda published in local newspapers to boycotting Jewish businesses in anti-Semitic legislation to eventually leading to the deadliest mass genocide in human history.
“[Hitler] was sending a very clear message to the German people – Jews are the root of their problem,” Rosenblum explained. “Why would you, as a good German, support the Jews who stabbed you in the back?”
Dr. Paul Brooks, SAGU Vice President for Academics, praised Roth for telling his story to the campus, adding that he is a “living testament” to the struggles that many other individuals face today.
“Mr. Roth challenges the audience to face the fact that so many ‘ordinary’ people were swept up in the perpetration of such evil,” Brooks remarked. “SAGU acknowledges the need of wisdom, anchored in the facts of history, to prepare its students for days to come as they engage leadership roles around this country."
Roth concluded his remarks by pleading to the audience not to become a bystander. This evil only prevailed, he explained, because others allowed it to.
“To execute this plan, it took hundreds of thousands of millions of people to do so,” Roth expressed. “Ordinary people who played with their children, read poetry, listened to classical music. That’s how the transformation took place.”