Holocaust survivor Alex Buckman shared traumatic stories from his childhood during a presentation for students Tuesday at South Delta Secondary.
Buckman, originally from Brussels, was born Oct. 31, 1939. Ten months later the Nazis invaded
Belgium. “Then everything changed for my family,” he said.
He explained how, for his protection, he was placed with different families, but that was dangerous because the Germans told anyone that helped Jewish people would be sent to concentration camps too.
Eventually, when he was four, he was sent to an orphanage in Namur, two hours from Brussels. His cousin Anny had also been sent there. He was told she was his sister.
“What I didn’t know is that my father had made an arrangement for my cousin to be there as well. He also made arrangements that our last name would be changed so that Anny and I would be known as brother and sister instead of cousins. Why? Because if anything would happen to our parents, at least the two of us could stay together.”
Buckman lost his parents during the Holocaust. He said they were turned in to the Gestapo and sent to Auschwitz concentration camp. They were murdered in 1943, he said.
Buckman described how he and others had to hide in a cellar during his time at the orphanage.
It was on top of a hill and the supervisors could see when trucks, full of Nazis, were coming, he said.
He said boys would be picked and told to go down through two big doors, concealed by furniture and carpets, into a cellar.
“It was pitch black. And it smelled awful.”
They asked, “‘Why do we have to go? We didn’t do anything,'” he said.
The wooden doors were closed and the carpets and furniture were put back.
“It was so scary,” he said.
The kids heard lots of noise, like footsteps from boots and yelling in a language they didn’t understand.
Eventually it became quiet again and they were asked to come out.
The first time it happened Buckman was only four.
“From four to six-anda-half it happened too many times,” he said. “So many years after, I still can’t sleep without lights throughout the house.”
Buckman came to Canada with his cousin, aunt and uncle in 1951 when he was 11. He left Montreal and came to Vancouver in his early 20s.
Tuesday’s event in Tsawwassen, which was organized through the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre, also included a talk by historian Chris Friedrichs, a short film presentation and a question-andanswer session with students.
Originally published HERE.