‘Chosen for Destruction’
Blocks of books like “Maus,” “Hitler’s Priests” and “Chosen for Destruction: The Story of Holocaust Survivor” were docked on tables at Broyhill Events Center Tuesday, July 17.
Those perusing the literary offerings at the 11th annual Martin and Doris Rosen Symposium on Remembering the Holocaust at Appalachian State University would soon hear a lecture from one of the authors – Morris Glass, 84, Holocaust survivor and author of “Chosen for Destruction.”
Ten days after World War II’s declaration on Sept. 1, 1939, Morris Glass’ Polish hometown was drowned by the lock-step of Nazis. Glass was 11 when his “very very happy childhood filled with Tarzan and cowboy movies and a luxury apartment” was strangled.
“The first thing they did was they burnt down out synagogue and all the Holy Scriptures and used it as a stable,” he said. “Food was scarce, but what kept us going was faith and that our family was still together.”
His bar mitzvah was lit with his parents, two elder sisters, elder brother and a potato peel cake flavored with coffee and black flour. It was one of four and a half years in his hometown and Lodz ghettos.
The Nazis’ evacuation of his hometown was as haunting as the Jews’ repression beneath the Egyptians, recorded in Exodus. Storm troopers ripped babies from their mothers’ arms and crushed them on the concrete walls.
The family’s goods were confiscated, and, in Lodz, they made straw boot covers and assembled metal parts.
After being hauled to Auschwitz, Glass said, “My mother and my two sisters went to the left, and my father, my brother and I went to the right,” he said. “I waved to them. They waved back. And I never saw them again.”
Only a thick padded coat from his father’s factory disguised Glass’ “skinny kid” frame so he could be considered “able-bodied” and go to two months in Auschwitz-Birkenau.
The Nazis shaved their heads and underarms and gave them striped pants, a shirt, and a hat.
“I walked outside after the showers to look for my father,” Glass said. “He was right beside me, and I couldn’t find him. He had aged 30 years in those few hours, because he realized where we were – Auschwitz.”
Walled by four large crematoriums, “the 24 hour smell of burning flesh cannot be confused with anything else,” Glass said. “You would look up at the smoke and wonder who was next.”
Glass said the Angel of Death was joyful in the experiments that left women crawling on all fours and children’s brains dissolved from being broken over by riffle boards.
Days before he and his father left Auschwitz, on the eve of Yom Kippur, Glass was saved by his sister’s boyfriend from the group killing of 700 selected teenage boys.
He then spent eight months in five camps that were part of the Dachau camp system.
At the one named “the camp of distortion,” Glass and his father dug foundations with a pick and shovel. Here, his father was dragged from his bed to be beaten to death and have his teeth pulled out for the valuable gold crowns.
Glass honored his father by helping to bury him.
In the final quarry camp, he caught dysentery and typhoid and was hauled onto a train with other half-dead teenagers to be sent to the “final solution to the Jewish question” – a meal of poisoned soup.
The train was halted by armed Americans, resulting in hundreds of casualties.
“We were near a village and the German solders allowed us to go get water,” he said. “We were walking, and the skies turned black, and the rain came, and the Germans took shelter in a farm house, and we just kept walking and walking.”
The five boys were hid in a German’s farmhouse before walking to a “very large building. A nun opened the door. She said, ‘Come in, my child.’”
The five were bathed, fed and clothed before they hid in the basement, watching out a window as the first American tank came rolling up the hill.
Following his release, Glass joined the Jewish Brigade in Italy, where he faught the Nazis until the war’s end. At 21, he moved to the United States, before settling in Raleigh, N.C., and starting a family of seven children, 18 grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.
The only family members that survived were his brother and a first cousin who escaped to China and then Australia.
“I don’t feel any hate and cannot blame the grandchildren for the sins of the grandfathers,” Glass said. “I couldn’t survive if I hated. I could not have survived without my God.”
With the pulse of hundreds of people absorbing the lecture for their own reasons – history gathering, psychological thrill, shamed curiosity – Glass said that he tells his story so people won’t forget.
“Unfortunately, we haven’t learned a damn thing from it,” he said. “I never thought that there would be more wars and anti-Semitism when we were liberated. But we’re not done yet.”
“Young people, I have a request,” he said in closing. “When you go home, hug your brothers and sisters and parents. Kiss them and tell them you love them and you care. Do it for me. Because I would do it again if I could.”
Glass’ lecture was presented by Appalachian State University’s Center for Judaic, Holocaust and Peace Studies. For more information, visit http://holocaust.appstate.edu.