On October 27th, 2016, Leon Schwarzbaum gave a guest lecture titled: "Letter to a former SS guard"". Mr. Schwarzbaum himself is a survivor of the Shoah and was imprisoned in the concentration camp of Auschwitz Birkenau during World War II.
Leon Schwarzbaum (95) was born in Hamburg in 1921 as the only child of a Polish Jewish family. He grew up in Bedzin in Upper Silesia, close to Katowitz. His parents ran a small quilt factory. He received his 'Abitur' in August 1939, only a few weeks before the German invasion of Poland, sabotaging all of his future plans. All Jews were then forced to live in a ghetto. About 80.000 Jews from the region around Bedzin were deported to Auschwitz, where most of them were killed. Among the dead were all of Leon Schwarzbaum's family members.
Leon Schwarzbaum however survived Auschwitz. He was forced to work for Siemens in Bobrek, a subcamp of Auschwitz. He survived the death march from Auschwitz via Gleiwitz, Buchenwald, Haselhorst - a subcamp of Sachsenhausen - to Schwerin. There, he was liberated by Americans in May 1945. Afterwards, he remained in Berlin for most of the time.
Mr. Schwarzbaum was welcomed by Brandt School professor and founding director Dietmar Herz and a group of 70 students. He read out loud a letter that he had prepared, as a witness and joint plaintiff, for the Auschwitz trial against SS Unterscharführer Ernst Tremmel in Hanau. The moving and powerful words of Mr. Schwarzbaum were interpreted into English by a second year student, Adam Carberry.
"More than 6 million Jews were killed, and more than 1 million of them in Auschwitz. If people in this country say 'it is enough!' and 'you have to draw a line and forget!' we have to answer: 'No! There is no final line to be drawn. The crimes that have been committed by the SS will continue to be remembered and read by people for hundreds of years. We have witnessed the largest mass murder in the history of humanity. The truth of Auschwitz is unbearable - but it has to be spoken about over and over again.' "
The guest talk was concluded by interesting questions regarding Mr. Schwarzbaum's biography, opinions, and experiences. We as the Brandt School are proud to have hosted this impressive guest lecture at a point in history where it has become difficult to listen to contemporary witnesses of the worst war crime in world history.