COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Gov. Mike DeWine hosted the annual Holocaust commemoration at the Ohio Statehouse on Thursday, marking the six million live lost eight decades ago.
“Thank God I have a home and am able to teach and pass it on because I was absolutely scared,” said Louis Gips, a Holocaust survivor. “My biggest fear was that it will die with us.”
Gips said her and her family survived a Siberian labor camp.
“How did we get there? When Poland was attacked, we all ran away with thousands of other people from the German invasion,” she said. “And we ended up in Ukraine by a difficult journey. [We were] being followed by Nazi airplanes shooting down refugees.”
She said, when they got to the labor camp, they were greeted with feet of snow and were told “you’ll get used to it, and if you don’t, you’ll die.” But Gips said that was just the beginning of the hardship.
“There was disease, starvation,” Gips said. “A lot of starvation.”
Gips said after a few years, they were liberated, but life did not become easy.
“And of course, our troubles are not over, we are starving, we have no money, we have no home again,” she said, “We’re homeless.”
She said her husband spent months hiding in the woods, covering himself with leaves and learning how to hide his scent so the Nazis with dogs could not find him. Gips said her husband ultimately returned to his village to find that most of his family had died and he no longer had a home. Now, Gips lives in Cleveland and said, when she first got there, she organized a group for survivors.
“There are two kinds of survivors, the ones that speak about it and can’t forget and it and the ones who will never say a word about it, you can’t get them to speak, one of those was my husband,” she said. “And I realized early on, if all of us don’t speak, history will definitely repeat itself.”
“We need to remind ourselves of the great horror of the holocaust,” DeWine said. “We talk about millions of people dying and it doesn’t really get driven home to us until we hear an individual story.”
DeWine said it is imperative to stand up to hate and oppression.
“We still see antisemitism in Ohio, we see it in other states, and we have to speak out about it,” he said. “But it’s also important to share these stories.”
Gips said if we stop telling survivor’s and liberator’s stories, history will repeat itself. And DeWine said it is our job to listen to the stories and learn.
“The enormity of the holocaust and how horrible it is sometimes gets obscured by numbers and the further we get away from this, it will be not too many years when there’s no one alive who’s a survivor,” he said.
“There are six million stories,” Gips said. “I can’t tell you all of them, even though I’d like to.”