Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C. -- After a weeklong journey with hundreds of others crammed in a train cart created for cattle, Morris Glass’ family was ripped apart in a single moment as they entered Auschwitz. The Nazi soldiers divided the passengers into separate lines. Men were sent to the right and women to the left. Glass stayed in line with his father and his brother but looked for his sisters and mom. When they saw each other, his mother and sisters waved to him. He waved back. He never saw them again.
Sixty-eight years later in the main lobby of Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune, Glass’ voice broke while describing those final moments. Among the many atrocities he shared while commemorating the Holocaust Days of Remembrance, it was this moment that gave Glass pause.
His hands shook. He took a deep breath. Glass went on to say he and his brother were the only members of his family to survive.
Glass spoke throughout the region occasionally to share his story with this generation, a generation he calls “the future of the greatest country in the world.” With that distinction, Glass said, comes a responsibility to make sure nobody faces anything like the Holocaust again.
Until he was separated from his family the horror was manageable, what kept them alive through the years of starvation and labor in the ghetto was that his family was still together and his family’s faith, “but this too came to an end,” said Glass.
Glass described his experiences throughout World War II in vivid details. However, much of the story could not be fully encapsulated with words. His speech was peppered with his own questions. How can one describe the anguish of Auschwitz? The cattle cars stuffed with people? Starvation? The conditions of the work camp where he only saw their quarters in the dark hours between shifts?
He shared his memories through moments, such as how he managed to escape an immediate death due to his father’s ingenuity in preparation of Dr. Josef Mengele’s selections.
Known as the Angel of Death, Mengele was the chief medical examiner at Birkenau camp who, among other doctors, selected who would be gassed and who would be sent to work camps. Mengele is also known for the extensive human experimentation he conducted in the camp.
Glass said in those days he was a skinny kid, and Mengele seemed hesitant to allow him through after his brother. Glass believes the tan coat with large shoulder pads his father created, hoping to make Glass look older, saved Glass from Mengele’s judgment.
Even before Glass arrived in Auschwitz or Dachau, Glass recalled infants taken away from their families and gruesomely murdered on the streets while their mothers cried, pleaded and prayed.
In Auschwitz, Glass looked at the chimneys wondering if those dear to him would be next to burn in the ovens.
He described the smell of burning human flesh, an odor so distinct, said Glass, it cannot be confused with anything else.
Glass saw Mengele’s experiments. He met men who were partially castrated by Mengele and women crawling on their hands and knees in terrible pain with their hair shaved off. To Glass they lacked “even the slightest resemblance to a human being.”
The moments and details shared by Glass left listeners wiping away tears, covering their mouths, rapt trying to comprehend a story they likely could not imagine.
Glass escaped death many times. He was whipped 25 times for leaving his work to pay final respects to his father and he fell ill with dysentery. There were constant threats, the gas showers and gallows full of corpses that welcomed him to Dachau among them. But Glass survived and now, in his mid eighties, shares his memories.
Glass escaped with a group of friends while being transported from the concentration camp as the war was ending. He hid with nuns who did not ask him questions but gave him food, clean clothes and hot water to bathe with.
Not much later, they were liberated by American troops.
“How could I possibly describe the jubilation of being free?” asked Glass, another among the long list of memories that transcend words. “How can I describe the feeling of knowing this nightmare was over?”
Glass thanked service members for the freedoms he and other survivors have been able to experience. Glass moved to the United States after the war, and decades later he shares his memories with the hope nobody will experience anything like it again.