Holocaust survivor shares personal story, powerful message at commemoration ceremony

Ohio Statehouse Newsroom
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Al Miller was born in Germany in 1922, 17 years later the ship he was on ferried him past the Statue of Liberty and he felt something he had longed to feel for years.

After several years and several countries made him feel unwelcome, it was America where he found hope.

Miller remembers when the Holocaust began.

It was 1933, he was 10 years old, and five words started to show up all over Germany; the Jews are our misfortune.

The words, when used together, created a lie that was perpetuated and embellished until more than 6 million people were killed as a result.

The powerful repeatedly this lie until some began to believe it.

Nazi Joseph Goebbels is often credited with saying, if you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.

One may think it to be a stretch that someone powerful could repeat a lie over and over again and that people would believe it to be the truth, but that’s been proven to be the case time and time again; recently even.

Miller was the last Jewish student at his school, and when his classmates made it too uncomfortable to be there any longer he was forced to flee Germany in 1937 at 15 years old.

He slipped out of the country and went to Switzerland; his brother was sent to England; and his parents stayed behind.

They were all eventually reunited in 1939 and made it to America avoiding the concentration and extermination camps more than 6 million others did not.

“The most overwhelming aspect of the over 6 million killed was the wanton destruction, the murder, of one and a half million children under the age of 15; one and a half million children, under the age of 15,” said Miller during his speech. “Can anyone guess what shining stars in medicine, gifted musicians, talented writers, committed artists, dedicated scientists were simply done away with, murdered, bulldozed into mass graves most often nameless.”

A few years after getting to America Miller was headed back to Europe, this time as part of the U.S. Military. He fought the Nazis in World War II.

Sergeant Robert Coyne also fought the Nazis in World War II, though he was there closer to the end of it. He was part of the wave of replacement troops sent to Europe and was assigned to the 4th Calvary Group, a reconnaissance squadron.

His group discovered Mittelbau Dora on April 10, 1945. Coyne says the first thing that drew their attention was the smell. It was unlike anything he had ever experience before and it has stayed with him today. They had found Nordhausen Camp and 3,000 corpses.

The sub-camp of Mittelbau Dora was a place where the Nazis sent prisoners too weak to work in the mine on their V1 and V2 rockets to starve to death. They were given no food or medical attention.

The camp was liberated 75 years ago today, and Coyne says he can still smell the death as if he was right there.

After sharing their stories, Governor John Kasich thanked the men. He then lamented that a rise in anti-Semitism in the world was threatening to wipe out the truth.   

“Today in the world there are people who are saying that the holocaust never happened,” said Kasich. “It never happened they say; and there are many people in the world that are believing that lie. We have to preserve the truth; each and every one of us, even at times when it’s difficult.”

Miller spoke of such difficulties in his speech.

“What is sometimes difficult to talk about must be talked about,” said Miller. “What is sometimes difficult to confront, must be confronted.”

Kasich was so impressed by Miller’s speech he said, “I can’t prove this but I think the Lord preserved your eloquence for today.”

Miller had one final request; that the next time you recite the Pledge of Allegiance you think about the words you are saying, especially the part about Liberty and Justice for all.

He says those are important; for a long time he had neither.

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